Documentary, Ethics, Service Learning

Chuck Tryon's picture

To follow up my post on my junior seminar, I’ll quickly add a copy of my course schedule for my Introduction to Film course. In the English department, we have adapted the Intro course so that it will fit into the “ethics and civic engagement” competency for the new core curriculum here at Fayetteville State. With that in mind, I’ve reinvented the course to address issues of documentary ethics and to include a required service learning project in which students make a 6-7 minute documentary about a local community organization (last semester it was Fayetteville Urban Ministry; this semester, it’s the local chapter of the American Red Cross). Last semester was very much a “beta test” for the class, in that I had never taught anything like this. It ended up working out pretty well, but I’ve learned a few things that I can write up later if anyone is interested. Students will also be required to write a paper addressing an ethical concern related to documentary. For now, below the fold, is our weekly schedule.

Week 1:
January 14-16
Films: Everything is a Remix (2012), dir. Kirby Ferguson (Vimeo).
Reading: CMSI, “Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use,” OL.
Guest Lecture 1/16: Melissa Lyon, Office of Civic Engagement and Service Learning
Week 2:
January 21-23:
Film: Hoop Dreams (1994), dir. Steve James, HU/NFX.
Reading: FE 215-54, “Telling Stories: Narrative Films.”
Murray Sperber, “Hoop Dreams: Hollywood Dreams,” Jump Cut 40 (March 1996): OL.

Week 3:
January 28-30:
Film: Supersize Me (2005), dir. Morgan Spurlock, HU.
Reading: FE 255-84, “Representing the Real: Documentary Films.”
Turki Alsherhi, “Ethical Responsibility to Subjects and Viewers In Documentary Films,” OL.
“How to Write a Proposal,” OL.

Week 4:
February 4-6:
Film: Capitalism: A Love Story (2010), dir. Michael Moore, HU.
Reading: FE 63-94, “Exploring a Material World: Mise-en-scene.”
Rachel Beck, “Dissecting the Facts in Michael Moore’s ‘Capitalism,” Associated Press, OL.
Proposal Due for Documentary Film Project, February 6.

Week 5:
February 11-13:
Film: Blackfish (2013), dir. Gabriela Cowperthwaite.
Reading: FE 95-132, “Framing What We See: Cinematography.”
Jason Kelly, “New Voices: ‘Blackfish’ Exploits Brancheau,” Orlando Sentinel, November 2,
2013, OL.
Rachel Clark, “‘Blackfish Effect’ Marks a Major Moral Uprising,” Psychology Today,
December 20, 2013, OL.

Week 6:
February 18-20:
Film: Harlan County, USA (1975), dir. Barbara Kopple, HU.
Reading: FE 133-76, “Relating Images: Editing.”
Peter Biskind, “Harlan County, USA: The Miners’ Struggle,” Jump Cut 14 (1977), 3-4, OL.
Research Plan due for Ethics Paper.

Week 7:
February 25-27:
Film: The Thin Blue Line (1988), dir. Errol Morris, NFX.
Reading: FE 177-211, “Listening to the Cinema: Film Sound.”

Week 8:
March 4-6:
Film: The Queen of Versailles (2012), dir. Lauren Greenfield, NFX.
Reading: Rich Juzwiak, “The Queen of Versailles Says She is Doing Just Fine,” Gawker, OL.
Midterm exam: March 6.

Spring break: March 11-13.

Week 9:
March 18-20:
Film: Sans Soleil (1983), dir. Chris Marker.
Reading: Jonathan Rosenbaum, “Personal Effects: The Guarded Intimacy of Sans Soleil,” Criterion, OL.

Week 10:
March 25-27:
Film: Waste Land (2010), dir. Lucy Walker, NFX, HU.
Reading: Lucy Walker, “Waste Land: Director’s Statement,” OL.
Andrew O’Hehir, “Who Really Made Waste Land?” Salon, OL.
Roger Ebert, “Waste Land,” Chicago Sun-Times, OL.

Week 11:
April 1-3:
Film: Salesman (1968), dir. Albert Maysles and David Maysles, HU.
Reading: Matt Zoller Seitz, “If I Were a Rich Man: Salesman,” The House Next Door, OL.

Week 12:
April 8-10:
Film: An Inconvenient Truth (2005), Davis Guggenheim, NFX.
Reading: Ari Karpel, “How to Turn Audiences into Activists,” Fast Company, OL.
“Ethics on Film: Discussion of ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’” Carnegie Council, OL.
First cut of Documentary due April 10.

Week 13:
April 15-17:
Film: Man on Wire (2008), dir. James Marsh, NFX.
Reading: Roger Ebert, “Man on Wire,” Roger Ebert.com, OL.
Rough draft of Documentary Ethics paper due April 15.

Week 14:
April 22-24:
Film: Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010), dir. Banksy, HU.
Reading: Alissa Walker, “Here’s Why the Banksy Movie is a Banksy Prank,” Fast Company, OL.
Melena Ryzick, “New Doubts for a Film that Has Truth Issues,” New York Times, OL.

Week 15:
April 29-May 1:
Film: Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010), dir. Werner Herzog, NFX.
Reading: Matt Hanson, “Ecstatic Truth: Werner Herzog’s The Cave of Forgotten Dreams,”
The Millions, OL.
Final draft: Documentary Ethics Paper
In-class film screening, student documentaries (clients, FSU officials will attend).
Final exam during scheduled exam time.

Chuck