Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session


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" peoples to a concern with capturing "real life" to a desire for advocacy. Students will view documentaries about people both in the US 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.


Attendance at class and participation is essential and constitutes 10% of course grade.

Course materials must be read for the assigned day in class.

Written assignments include:

  • For each of the films viewed in class, a 1-2 page reaction paper.
  • One 5-7 page paper (undergraduates).
  • Two 5-7 page paper (graduate students).