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Boatwright Memorial Library

FYS 100 (36): Latin American Politics & Film (Pribble): Films

Research Guide for Dr. Jenny Pribble's First Year Seminar.

Documentary analysis

What filmmaking techniques are used to construct the "truth" depicted?

What is the perspective of the filmmakers, and what message are they trying to convey?

What else do you want to know in order to better understand the historical events depicted?

What is a documentary?

A documentary reflects:

  • a representation of reality, based on our understanding of the human experience
  • the subjective view point of the director
  • essential truths constructed through the process of filmmaking techniques

A documentary is not the objective truth. So why do we choose to believe what we see?

Filmmaking techniques allow us to suspend belief that what we see and hear is real:

  • Handheld camera footage recorded in real time of actual events
  • A "fly on the wall" observational approach, absence of the director's presence
  • A linear narrative that appears to be unfolding before us through the editing process
  • Lack of music, which is normally used to evoke an emotional response
  • Seemingly unscripted "man on the street" interviews
  • A voice over narration, presenting facts

What techniques might be used to construct reality in the following?:

  • Ethnographic films
  • Political propaganda 
  • Historical biographies
  • Reality television shows

Streaming Movies:

Battle of Chile

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