CULT322-23S2 (C) Semester Two 2023

Documentary: From the Margins to the Mainstream

30 points

Start Date: Monday, 17 July 2023
End Date: Sunday, 12 November 2023
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 30 July 2023
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Sunday, 1 October 2023


This course examines the artistic and political principles that govern the representation of reality in contemporary documentary film.

In the last ten years, there has been an incredible resurgence of interest in documentary film.  Due to the critical and commercial success of a number of recent films, documentary has moved from a modest place in film history to a privileged position within contemporary cinema.  This course will examine the artistic and political principles of documentary in the light of the current renaissance in the genre.  The first term is devoted to a study of a number of canonical films from the history of documentary.  In the second term, we analyse the points of comparison and difference between some high-profile examples of the contemporary documentary form and their historical precedents.

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will gain an understanding of a range of critical and conceptual issues.  The theoretical focus of the course will be the vexed relationship between representation and reality that defines documentary film.  Topics will include:
  • the credibility, veracity and authenticity of the documentary image
  • documentary film as historical record, factual evidence, objective witness
  • the rhetorical strategies and ideological positions adopted by documentary filmmakers
  • authorship and performance
  • the use of fiction filmmaking techniques in documentary: narrative structure, dramatic form, cinematic style
  • production, exhibition and distribution practices
  • the impact of digital technology and new media upon documentary
    • University Graduate Attributes

      This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:

      Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award

      Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.

      Globally aware

      Students will comprehend the influence of global conditions on their discipline and will be competent in engaging with global and multi-cultural contexts.


Any 30 points at 200 level from CINE or CULT, or
any 60 points at 200 level from the Schedule V of the BA.


Equivalent Courses

Timetable 2023

Students must attend one activity from each section.

Lecture A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Friday 10:00 - 12:00 A9 Lecture Theatre 17 Jul - 27 Aug
11 Sep - 22 Oct
Film Screening A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Wednesday 13:00 - 16:00 A9 Lecture Theatre 17 Jul - 27 Aug
11 Sep - 22 Oct

Course Coordinator

Alan Wright


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
Essay One 20% 1,000 words
Essay Two 20% 1,500 words
Essay Three 40% 3,000 word essay OR report
Group Presentation 20% with 1,000 word report

Please check the course LEARN page for further details and updates.

Textbooks / Resources

Recommended reading:
(NB. These texts will be on reserve in the library.)
•New Documentary, 2nd Ed. Stella Bruzzi.
•Imagining Reality, 2nd Ed.  Eds. MacDonald & Cousins
•Introduction to Documentary, Bill Nichols
•The Subject of Documentary, Michael Renov
•Documentary, Dave Saunders

Films will include:
• Lumière Brothers films
• The Great White Silence (Ponting, 1929)
• John Grierson films
• Man with a Movie Camera (Vertov, 1929)
• Triumph of the Will (Riefenstahl, 1935)
• High School (Wiseman, 1968)
• Tangata Whenua (Barclay and King, 1974)
• Touching the Void (McDonald, 2003)
• Fahrenheit 9/11 (Moore, 2004)                                
• Grizzly Man (Herzog, 2005)
• The Missing Picture (Panh, 2013)
• The Act of Killing (Oppenheimer, 2012)
• Leviathan (Castaing-Taylor and Paravel, 2012)

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $1,641.00

International fee $7,500.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

For further information see Humanities .

All CULT322 Occurrences

  • CULT322-23S2 (C) Semester Two 2023