FILM 2001 - Persuasion and Propaganda: Documentary Cinema

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2020

What different types of documentary are there? What are the differences between persuasion and propaganda? How does the form of non-fiction film affect the way viewers access reality? What ethical problems does the representation of real events trigger? What are the boundaries between fact and fiction? Is film advertising a form of persuasion or propaganda? These, and many more, are the questions that this course will explore through a combination of lectures, screenings, interactive seminars and readings. In the first half of the course we will examine five types of documentary as defined by Bill Nichols: expository, observational, participatory, reflexive and performative. Analysis of different types of documentary film will show how the seemingly distinct qualities of persuasion and propaganda are often significantly blurred. In the second half of the course we will focus on more specific documentary genres. Firstly, we will address questions raised by the cinematic representation of historical events, especially events that are considered 'unrepresentable' . Using the Holocaust as a case study, we will consider different effects use to inform and shock audiences . Secondly , we will examine the wildlife film, and consider the techniques that it uses in order to render its subject matter interesting and pleasurable for audiences. Thirdly, we will focus on the work of Werner Herzog, who has made a series of documentaries that deal with subjects that might be thought impossible to represent, such as the joy of a ski-jumper, the experience of religious ecstasy, and the inner lives of those who are born deaf and blind. Finally, we turn our attention to advertising in cinema, and in particular the role of the film trailer in 'persuading' audiences.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code FILM 2001
    Course Persuasion and Propaganda: Documentary Cinema
    Coordinating Unit School of Humanities
    Term Semester 1
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 4 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange N
    Prerequisites At least 12 units of Level I undergraduate study
    Restrictions Students must be 18 years of age at the commencement of course due to the discussion of R-rated themes and materials.
    Course Description What different types of documentary are there? What are the differences between persuasion and propaganda? How does the form of non-fiction film affect the way viewers access reality? What ethical problems does the representation of real events trigger? What are the boundaries between fact and fiction? Is film advertising a form of persuasion or propaganda? These, and many more, are the questions that this course will explore through a combination of lectures, screenings, interactive seminars and readings. In the first half of the course we will examine five types of documentary as defined by Bill Nichols: expository, observational, participatory, reflexive and performative. Analysis of different types of documentary film will show how the seemingly distinct qualities of persuasion and propaganda are often significantly blurred. In the second half of the course we will focus on more specific documentary genres. Firstly, we will address questions raised by the cinematic representation of historical events, especially events that are considered 'unrepresentable' . Using the Holocaust as a case study, we will consider different effects use to inform and shock audiences . Secondly , we will examine the wildlife film, and consider the techniques that it uses in order to render its subject matter interesting and pleasurable for audiences. Thirdly, we will focus on the work of Werner Herzog, who has made a series of documentaries that deal with subjects that might be thought impossible to represent, such as the joy of a ski-jumper, the experience of religious ecstasy, and the inner lives of those who are born deaf and blind. Finally, we turn our attention to advertising in cinema, and in particular the role of the film trailer in 'persuading' audiences.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Associate Professor Ben McCann

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

    1.    identify different forms of documentary and non-fiction film and their role as instruments of conveying persuasion and propaganda

    2.    understand the theoretical debates and issues involved in the representation of historical events on screen

    3.    evaluate the ethical and persuasive implications of films that refer to the real world

    4.    demonstrate an appreciation of the rhetorical strategies used in documentary and non-fiction films
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Deep discipline knowledge
    • informed and infused by cutting edge research, scaffolded throughout their program of studies
    • acquired from personal interaction with research active educators, from year 1
    • accredited or validated against national or international standards (for relevant programs)
    1, 2
    Critical thinking and problem solving
    • steeped in research methods and rigor
    • based on empirical evidence and the scientific approach to knowledge development
    • demonstrated through appropriate and relevant assessment
    1, 2, 3, 4
    Teamwork and communication skills
    • developed from, with, and via the SGDE
    • honed through assessment and practice throughout the program of studies
    • encouraged and valued in all aspects of learning
    2, 3, 4
    Career and leadership readiness
    • technology savvy
    • professional and, where relevant, fully accredited
    • forward thinking and well informed
    • tested and validated by work based experiences
    3, 4
    Intercultural and ethical competency
    • adept at operating in other cultures
    • comfortable with different nationalities and social contexts
    • able to determine and contribute to desirable social outcomes
    • demonstrated by study abroad or with an understanding of indigenous knowledges
    1, 2, 3, 4
    Self-awareness and emotional intelligence
    • a capacity for self-reflection and a willingness to engage in self-appraisal
    • open to objective and constructive feedback from supervisors and peers
    • able to negotiate difficult social situations, defuse conflict and engage positively in purposeful debate
    1, 2, 3, 4
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    FILMS TO BE STUDIED: to be confirmed in January 2020

    All reading material will be provided through Canvas.

    All films will be screened in the allocated screening class.
    Recommended Resources
    Aitken, Ian (ed.) (2005), Encyclopedia of the Documentary Film. New York: Routledge

    Nichols, Bill (2017), Introduction to Documentary, 3rd edition. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press
    Online Learning
    This course will use MyUni, Echo360 and other resources to be announced.
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes

    No information currently available.

    Workload

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    Workload - structured learning Total hours
    12 x 2 hour screenings 24
    12 x 2 hour seminars 24
    TOTAL 48
    Workload - self-directed learning Total hours
    5 hours reading per week 60
    2 hours research / lecture preparation per week 24
    2 hours assignment preparation per week 24
    TOTAL 108
    GRAND TOTAL 156
    Learning Activities Summary
    Classes will comprise a mixture of screenings, mini-lectures, small group activities and writing workshops. 
    For the detailed work schedule, see the Course Booklet (available on MyUni to enrolled students).
    Specific Course Requirements
    Students are expected to read the texts set for the given weeks in advance and prepare their answers to any set questions, as required.
    Small Group Discovery Experience
    n/a
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Assessment task Task type Weighting Course Learning Outcomes
    Research portfolio Summative
    and formative
    25% 1, 2, 3, 4
    Mini research essay Summative
    and formative
    25% 1, 2, 3, 4
    Major research essay Formative 50% 1, 2, 3, 4


    Due to the current COVID-19 situation modified arrangements have been made to assessments to facilitate remote learning and teaching. Assessment details provided here reflect recent updates.

    There are no changes to the assessment arrangements. All essays and the research portfolio will be submitted online.
    An online test will be available in Week 13 for students who have decided to complete an exam instead of an essay.

    All responses to the weekly discussion board postings will count towards the final 10% of the final grade.
    Assessment Related Requirements
    n/a
    Assessment Detail
    Assessment Description Weighting
    Research portfolio Students will develop a portfolio of bibliographic material, images and stills, and critical analysis on 4 chosen films in the course (c. 1500 words) 25%
    Mini
    research essay
    Students will write a 1000-word essay on a specific topic in the course 25%
    Major
    research essay
    Students will write a 2000-word essay on a specific topic in the cours 50%
    Submission
    All assignments will be submitted electronically on or before the due date.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy (http://www.adelaide.edu.au/policies/101/) course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
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