Written Assignment #2


In 4-5 pages, write a research and analysis paper of a Observational Mode OR Participatory Mode documentary. Your paper should address each of the following areas:

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Provide a production and reception history of the film. This portion of the essay should include details of who made the film; how the film came about; filming locations and filming techniques; how the film was released to the public; and the critical reception of the film by critics and/or commentators. You will need to conduct research from published sources to find these details.
NOTE: While Wikipedia is a perfectly fine starting point for researching a film, it does not qualify as a published source – you should only use it to find sources in the “References” section at the bottom. Published means vetted by editors and published through a journalistic and/or peer-reviewed organization. Newspapers, journals, books, encyclopedias, and magazines (in print or online) all qualify. Blogs, personal websites, and public-sourced encyclopedias (like Wikipedia) do not
Describe in why the film belongs to the Observational Mode OR Participatory Mode. Make sure to pay attention to the descriptions of each mode provided both in the readings and in the lectures, and note how the film fits these descriptions. Use several specific examples from the film in order to justify your opinion.
Analyze the film in terms of the four elements of the documentary (Interesting Sights, Storytelling, Poetic, and Lessons/Lectures), as outlined in the lecture on “Origins of Documentary” and Chapter 1 in the textbook. Identify which elements are present in the film and describe how these elements are being utilized. You should offer specific examples to justify your arguments.
Analyze the ethical treatment of the subject or subjects in your documentary, based on our class discussion from Weeks 2-3 and Chapter 2 of the textbook. Are the documentary filmmakers acting ethically in their presentation of reality and/or real subjects? Make sure to review the specific questions raised in the textbook when examining your film. This is not just personal opinion – you should examine the ethical questions raised in the book and state if any apply to the film. If there are no ethically objections, state why in detail.

Place your name, date, and “Paper #1at the top of the page in three SINGLE SPACED lines. The rest of the paper should follow the following format:

4-5 pages
Doubled spaced
1-inch margins
Times New Roman font

If your paper is not correctly format and free of grammar errors, it will lose significant points.

NOTE: DO NOT pick a film discussed in class (check with me if you’re unsure.)


While I encourage you to seek out documentaries that interest you personally, here are some suggestions if you need a starting point.

NOTE: most can be found either for rent online (I recommend checking for streaming options thru www.justwatch.com) or through your local library system:

Primary (Robert Drew, 1960)
Don’t Look Back (D.A. Pennebaker, 1967)
Salesman (Maysles Brothers & Charlotte Zwerin, 1969)
High School (Frederick Wiseman, 1970)
Grey Gardens (Maysles Brothers, 1975)
Harlan County USA (Barbara Kopple, 1976)
Life and Times of Harvey Milk (Rob Epstein, 1984)
Madonna: Truth or Dare (Alek Keshishian, 1991)
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (Joe Berlinger & Dan Braun, 2004)
Weiner (Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg, 2016)
Sherman’s March (Ross McElwee, 1985)
Roger and Me (Michael Moore, 1989)
Kurt and Courtney (Nick Broomfield, 1998)
The Fog of War (Errol Morris, 2003)
Super Size Me (Morgan Spurlock, 2004)
Tabloid (Errol Morris, 2010)
Approaching the Elephant (Amanda Wilder, 2014)
Tales of the Grim Sleeper (Nick Broomfield, 2014)
Tickled (David Farrier, Dylan Reeve, 2016)
Icarus (Bryan Fogel, 2017)

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