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History in the Visual Mode: Methods and Practices of Documentary Storytelling
Course Description

The course focuses on representations of contested historical events in documentary cinema and combines theoretical and practical approaches. It introduces students to the basics of analyzing and producing moving images that use historical arguments and explore relationship between memory and public spaces. Theoretical part of the course surveys classical and experimental documentary films and addresses mechanisms of constructing historical narratives by visual means. During class discussions we will analyze the use of first-person testimonies, found footage, and the role of editing and sound design in documentary films as means of storytelling. In the practical component of the course students will learn the basics of camera work and editing and will do group exercises to develop their visual skills. The students will learn to film interviews, work with archival footage, and shoot observational scenes. Working on practical assignments, students are introduced to the basics of project development and organization, learn camera basics and basic post-production techniques. The course aims to develop analytical, rhetorical, visual, as well as a range of practical skills, including collaboration and communication skills. The course introduces students to the basics of visual literacy and develops their critical thinking and ability to design interdisciplinary research projects.

Learning Outcomes

 - Visual literacy skills required to interpret the structure and expressive means used in documentary filmmaking

- Ability to critically analyze concepts relating to documentary and construction of historical argument by visual means

- Ability to produce and analyze historical arguments in visual form

- Enhanced critical thinking about contested public historical narratives

- A set of practical and writing skills for working with historical arguments.

- Knowledge of basic stages of documentary production, including cinematography, editing, and sound design

- Work with basic technical proficiency in video production

- Ability to offer and receive peer critique of visual work


Attendance and class participation (10%)

Class Presentation (10%)
Exercise 1 (20%)

Exercise 2 (30%)

Film analysis paper (30%)

Course Level
Course Open to
Students on-site
Academic Year
US Credits
ECTS Credits
Course Code
HIST 5060