This course will look at the history of non-fiction film and media beginning with Robert Flaherty’s landmark film Nanook of the North and concluding with recent developments such as reality TV, animated docs, and YouTube distributed documentary. In between, we will examine Social & Political Documentaries, documentary as a movement, the Russian Revolution and Kino-Eye, Cinéma Vérité and questions of idexicality and the real, the Holocaust and representation, the essay film, and performance. Come prepared to think about how we see the “real world” of everyday life through film, television, and the Internet. At the conclusion of the course, students will have a working knowledge of the theory and history of documentary media and will have completed some preliminary image-based and textual research on documentary forms and genres in historical and contemporary contexts.
“It’s a true story. I was in my early twenties or thereabouts – and at that time, of course, being a young intellectual, I wanted desperately to get away, see something different, throw myself into something practical, something physical, in the country say, or at the sea. One day, I was on a small boat, with a few people from a family of fishermen in a small port. At that time, Brittany was not industrialized as it is now. There were no trawlers. The fisherman went out in his frail craft at his own risk. It was this risk, this danger, that I loved to share. But it wasn’t all danger and excitement – there were also fine days. One day, then, as we were waiting for the moment to pull in the nets, an individual known as Petit-Jean, that’s what we called him – like all his family, he died very young from tuberculosis, which at that time was a constant threat to the whole of that social class – this Petit-Jean pointed out to me something floating on the surface of the waves. It was a small can, a sardine can. It floated there in the sun, a witness to the canning industry, which we, in fact, were supposed to supply. It glittered in the sun. And Petit-Jean said to me – You see that can? Do you see it? Well, it doesn’t see you!”
-Jacques Lacan, 1964