Available in 2022
Course code



10 units


3000 level

Course handbook


FMCS3600 Documentary Cinema: Rendering the Real offers a critical, historical, and theoretical survey of documentary film as a reportorial, experiential, persuasive, educational, and innovative form of global cinema spanning diverse cultures and political contexts. The course comprises an examination of the different styles, aims, and methods characterising documentary approaches to filmmaking via historical and more recent examples, and informed by a range of scholarly work dedicated to this form of cinema. In the process, the special status and claims of documentary filmmaking are identified, interrogated, and explored.



  • Semester 2 - 2022

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate an understanding of documentary cinema's informative and educational role in how we understand social, political, cultural and historical contexts and realities.

2. Effectively apply and adapt major theoretical cinema studies models to documentary filmmaking.

3. Evaluate and critique ethical questions arising in documentary filmmaking.

4. Analyse, at advanced undergraduate level, documentary cinema’s contribution to audio-visual media's technological, formal and aesthetic development.


Course topics include:

  • the relationship between documentary films and history, politics, social reality, and personal and cultural memory;
  • the usage and function of experts, witnesses, archive footage, and narrators;
  • how the concepts of objectivity and subjectivity play out within documentary films and scholarship;
  • the responsibility of the filmmaker to his/her filmed subjects as existing within a specific social context, and the relationship between 'the audience's right to know' and on-screen subjects' right to privacy; and
  • the ways by which new audio-visual technologies and filmmaking innovation can erode traditional boundaries between documentary, narrative, and experimental cinema.

Assumed knowledge

20 units in 1000 and 2000 level film and television studies courses.

Assessment items

Journal: Weekly Journal (40%)

Annotated Bibliography: Research Exercise (20%)

Essay: Major Research Essay (40%)

Contact hours


Film Screening

Online 2 hour(s) per Week for 12 Weeks


Online 2 hour(s) per Week for 12 Weeks

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.