Documentary Film and History

UNSW Sydney

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Documentary Film and History

  • Host University

    UNSW Sydney

  • Location

    Sydney, Australia

  • Area of Study

    Film Studies, History

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Prerequisites

    24 units of credit in the History stream

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • Credit Points

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
    3 - 4
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
    4 - 6
  • Overview

    Documentary film is a dominant form of historical knowledge in today's world. This course explores the ways in which documentary films represent, remember, imagine and find meaning in the past, and their function as "History" in the public sphere. Students will analyse documentary's traditional status as a "truth telling device" in light of similar debates over the nature of history and truth, and explore the tensions between documentary and written histories. The course also addresses the possibilities of the audiovisual archive as a source of historical research, and how the historian-as-documentarian might approach the non-print text as a primary source of historical evidence. Students are encouraged to consider both the limitations and the potential for documentary as a mode of historical production, and what the future holds for history on the screen. What films get made about the past, and when, is an important question for consideration in this course. Topics addressed in this course include the construction of historical memory; ethnography and race; testimony and the historical witness; television histories; historical re-enactment; myth; the audio-visual archive; home movies; found footage; web-based histories, and 'reality' history.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Credits earned vary according to the policies of the students' home institutions. According to ISA policy and possible visa requirements, students must maintain full-time enrollment status, as determined by their home institutions, for the duration of the program.


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