Human Rights and Documentary Cinema

Academic Year: 
Course Description: 

What role can documentary film play in promoting human rights? The course introduces ten recent thought-provoking, educational, professionally crafted, and visually engaging documentary films from different parts of the world addressing a variety of human rights issues. Thematic ranges of the documentary films include economic, social, and cultural rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, refugee rights, and international humanitarian law. The course explores the variety of means, from storytelling constructions to camera work and editing, with which concrete cases of human rights violation are presented in advocacy films and in the investigations of political and economic contexts which create conditions for human rights abuses. The students will discuss the elements of compelling visual storytelling, including character and storyline development, variety of styles of documentary filmmaking, distribution channels in relation to social change and impact enhancement, as well as the role of the new media in creating human rights documentaries.
The course will have 10 class meetings, 140 min each to allow for screenings and discussion.

Learning Outcomes: 

1. Develop students’ ability to benefit from encountering human rights problems through advancing students' visual literacy skills.

2. Challenge students to engage in critical thinking about human rights issues through working with audio-visual material.

3. Make students comfortable with interdisciplinary interpretative approaches in human rights and visual studies.

4. Developing writing skills on a variety of human rights issues as portrayed in documentary cinema.


The final grade is based on in-class participation [20 %; not limited to oral assignments], one (1) short written assignment [20%], and a final essay [60%].