21A.337J / CMS.917J Documenting Culture

Spring 2004

Series of a crew working on a documentary film set.
Series of a crew working on a documentary film set. (Photographs courtesy of Rosemary Rawcliffe of Frame of Mind Films.)

Course Highlights

This course includes a complete bibliography and all assignments.

Course Description

How — and why — do people seek to capture everyday life on film? What can we learn from such films? This course challenges distinctions commonly made between documentary and ethnographic films to consider how human cultural life is portrayed in both. It considers the interests, which motivate such filmmakers ranging from curiosity about "exotic" people to a concern with capturing "real life" to a desire for advocacy. Students will view documentaries about people both in the U.S. and abroad and will consider such issues as the relationship between film images and "reality," the tensions between art and observation, and the ethical relationship between filmmakers and those they film.

*Some translations represent previous versions of courses.

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Prof. Christine Walley

Course Meeting Times

One session / week
3 hours / session


Undergraduate / Graduate