ART 117 MAKING THE DOCUMENTARY FILM


THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT DAVIS

SPRING 2004

 


CLASS INFO

Professor: Hisham Bizri
Email: hb@hishambizri.com
Voice:  (530) 752 - 2131
Office hours: MW 4 - 5 & by appointment
Course hours: MW 1:10 - 4:00
Course location: Department of Art & Art History, ART 231
Course url: http://hishambizri.com/ucdavis/spring04/art117/
Teaching Assistant: Lucas Fladzinski, lucas@millionsofyears.com
 

SYLLABUS

Course Description
Capture, don't reconstruct. Eric Von Stroheim

I am the camera's eye. I am the machine that shows you the world as I alone see it. Starting from today I am forever free of human immobility. I am in perpetual movement. I approach and draw away from things - I crawl under them - I climb on them - I am on the head of a galloping horse - I burst at full speed into a crowd - I run before running soldiers - I throw myself down with the aeroplanes - I fall and I fly at one with the bodies falling or rising through the air. Dziga Vertov

Pos scenes, unloading, the port, winter, tracking, the gramophone, Xmas, sledging, medicine - castor oil - Flaherty's Diary

Course Requirements and Grading
    1.    Mandatory class attendance
    2.    Assignments must be completed on time. Late assignments are not permitted
    3.    Students must participate in class discussions
    4.    Timely completion of all production assignments (60%)
    5.    Timely completion of all reading assignments (20%)
    6.    Participation in class critique and discussion (20%)
 
Course Objectives
Students will acquire the practical skills necessary to produce documentary videos by being required to complete a series of production projects. The specific technical skills that students can expect to learn touch on all technical aspects pertaining to documentary cinema, our goals here being to:
 
    1.    master documentary cinematography
    2.    master documentary audio design, and
    3.    learn Final Cut Pro©

The course will provide historical and theoretical context by means of assigned readings and screenings. We will critically reflect on the fruits of our labor in the course of in-class critique and discussion pertaining to the nature of the documentary and its place within the cinematic tradition. Our goals here will be to:
    1.   
Introduce the student to the history and concepts of the documentary film;
    2.   
Explore the various styles and methods of the documentary film;
    3.   
Analyze the place of the documentary film in society, and
    4.    Examine the
the documentary as a social, political, and aesthetic medium.

READINGS

REQUIRED

RECOMMENDED


SCREENINGS (mostly sequences and a number of complete screenings)

Lumiére shorts
Nanook of the North, Man of Aran, & Louisiana Story, Flaherty
A Propos de Nice, Vigo
Land without Bread,
Buñuel
Night Mail, Watt & Wright
Night and Fog, Resnais
Chronicle of a Summer, Rouch
A happy Mother’s day, Leacock
Don’t look Back, Pennebaker
Triumph of the Will, Riefenstahl
Olympia, Riefenstahl
High School, Wiseman
Diaries: 1971-1979, Pincus
Thin Blue Line, Morris
Home Movies by Mekas
F for Fake and the BBC films, Welles
A Man Escaped, Bresson
Sans Soleil, Marker
Le Jolie Mai, Marker
Kiss, Warhol
A Movie, Bruce Conner, 1959, 12 mins 16mm
Very Nice Very Nice, Arthur Lipsett, 1961,
The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty, Esther Shub's(1927)
The Last Bolshevik, Marker(1990)
Letter from Siberia, Marker
Drifters, Grierson
Night Mail, Grierson
Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, Ruttmann
“Rain” and “Spanish Earth”, Joris Ivens
Rien Que Les Heures, (French, 1926), Alberto Cavalcanti
London Can Take It, (British, 1940), Harry Watt and Humphrey Jennings
The City (1939), Willard Van Dyke
The March of Time, (U.S., 1939), various episodes of the monthly newsreel series by Time magazine
The Battle of Russia (U.S., 1943), from "Why We Fight" series produced by Frank Capra
The Battle of San Pietro (U.S., 1945), John Huston
Sokurov's Spiritual Voices & Confession, as well as the elegies

 

SCHEDULE & ASSIGNMENTS

The Chicago Media Works site is an excellent resource for making the documentary: http://www.chicagomediaworks.com. The site contains helpful templates, instructions, technical questions, and so forth.

Weekly Presentations
Students are required to present and discuss their work, readings, and screenings as well as write several short reports.

Weekly Schedule & Assignments (weekly discussions of Rabiger's Directing The Documentary as well)

Week 1

Discussion topics
What is the documentary film?; actuality films
Lab topics
Documentary Cinematography
Screenings
Lumiére shorts
Readings
Barnouw pp. 1-82; Rothman pp. 1-21;

 

Week 2 

Discussion topics
Truth & reconstruction; poetry of everyday life
Lab topics
Lighting and color; software overview; FCP 1
Screenings
Flaherty, Vertov, Ruttman, Vigo, Ivens
Readings
Barnouw pp. 83-182

Production exercise: #1 [5, 1 minute films]


Week 3 

Discussion topics
Social and political documentary
Lab topics
FCP 2; audio design
Screenings
Buñuel, Grierson,
Watt & Wright, Riefenstahl
Readings
Barnouw pp. 183-
294


Week 4

Discussion topics
The fictional documentary; diary films; found footage
Lab topics

The interview; testimony
Screenings
Rosellini, Welles, Maysles, Warhol, Resnais, Lipsett, Mekas
Readings
Barnouw pp. 295-349
 
Production exercise: #2 [3, 2-minute films]

 

Week 5

Discussion topics
War; representation; ethical dilemmas
Lab topics
Producing the documentary
Screenings
A selection of war films; Marker

Treatments for final films due

 

Week 6 

Discussion topics
The ethnographic film; cinéma vérité; the eye witness
Lab topics
Research methodology; Financing the documentary
Readings
Rouch pp. 29-46; 129-146; 229-344
Screenings
Jean Rouch

Present research materials for final films
 

Week 7 Discussion topics
Reality unbound; subjectivity
Lab topics
Image-audio manipulation
Screenings
Sokurov

Week 8

Discussion topics
The documentary today
Lab topics
Distribution
Screenings
Students' bring their own favorite contemporary documentaries and discuss them in class

First cut due of final films

 

Week 9

Second cut due of final films


Week 10

Screenings and critiques of final films