Module Details

LT930-7-SP-CO: Documentary And The Avant-Garde: Film, Video, Digital

Note: This module is inactive. Visit the Module Directory to view modules and variants offered during the current academic year.

Year: 2017/18
Department: Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Essex credit: 20
ECTS credit: 10
Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students: Yes
Full Year Module Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students for a Single Term: No
Outside Option: No

Supervisor: Professor Jeffrey Geiger
Teaching Staff: Professor Jeffrey Geiger
Contact details: LiFTS General Office - email Telephone 01206 872626

Module is taught during the following terms
Autumn Spring Summer

Module Description

This course first examines non-fiction films, which came be known after 1926 as 'documentaries', starting with some classics of the documentary form. It then looks at more recent hybrid forms such as docufictions or mockumentaries, considering the fascination with reality TV and real life programming. Avant-garde approaches are considered alongside as we examine their relations to perceiving and questioning reality, and creating altered states of perception. We will interrogate the role of representation in conveying images received as authentic, immediate, or real, and consider the theoretical and practical implications of accurately representing real situations and events. Topics include: ethnography and ethnocentrism, the rise of cinema verite, documentary and war, postmodern narratives, autobiography and personal voice. Filmmakers include: The Edison Company, Michael Moore, Errol Morris, Samira Makhmalbaf, Jean Rouch, The Maysles Brothers. In addition to the course essay, students will have the opportunity to make a short film.

Learning and Teaching Methods

One two-hour seminar and screening


100 per cent Coursework Mark


One 3500-word essay (90 per cent) and one (collectively or individually produced) short film exercise (10 per cent)


  • Barbash, Ilisa, Cross-Cultural Filmmaking: A Handbook (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997)
  • Beattie, Keith. Documentary Display: Re-viewing Nonfiction Film and Video (London: Wallflower, 2008)
  • Gaines, Jane and Michael Renov, eds., Collecting Visible Evidence (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999)
  • Geiger, Jeffrey, American Documentary Film: Projecting the Nation (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2011)
  • Hight, Craig, Faking It: Mock Documentary and the Subversion of Factuality (Manchester UP, 2002)
  • Horak, Jan-Christopher, ed., Lovers of Cinema: The First American Film Avant-Garde, 1919-1945 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998)
  • James, David E., The Most Typical Avant-Garde: History and Geography of Minor Cinemas in Los Angeles (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005)
  • Klotman, Phyllis and Janet K. Cutler eds., Struggles for Representation: African American Film and Video (Indiana University Press, 1999)
  • Nichols, Bill, Blurred Boundaries (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1994)
  • Ten Brink, Joram, ed., Building Bridges: The Cinema of Jean Rouch (London, Wallflower, 2006)
  • Vaughan, Dai, For Documentary: Twelve Essays (Berkeley: U of California Press, 1999)
  • Winston, Brian, Claiming the Real: The Documentary Film Revisited (London: BFI, 1995)
  • See ORB for full outline and bibliography.

Further information