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Documentary Film


Admission requirements



The public interest in documentary film and photography has taken a flight in recent decades. However, we would be mistaken to take such developments to mean that the ‘genre’ of documentary has established a uniform tradition and stable identity for itself. In a historical sense, the notion of documentary film and photography is relatively young – the term stems from the 1920s – but the meaning and function of documentary has undergone many transformations. In a general sense, a ‘documentary’ is expected to provide a ‘factual’ or ‘objective’ portrayal of the world we live in. Based on real events, it’s function is understood to provide evidence of socio-historical events and circumstances. Ideally, then, a documentary image would not subjected to any form of manipulation or mediation. The point of this course is to examine how such claims to truth and authenticity were articulated, but also came to be questioned. We shall pay attention, for instance, to such issues as the mode of address, the framing of images, the use of stylistic devices and narrative techniques, and the function of captions and commentary. In particular, we shall focus on the relationship between fact and fiction, examining the role of re-enactments in documentary, for instance, or the deliberate blending of fictional and actual film footage in recent film and video essays.

Course objectives

Students who successfully complete this course will:

  • Be able to provide a historical survey of the most important postions and reflections of the documentary practice of film and photography.

  • Be able to reflect on the difference, but also the intersection between documentary and fictional modes of image production.

  • Have acquired insight into the most important historical and contemporary practices of documentary film and photography.

  • Have acquired knowledge of the most important theoretical, aeshetic and political debates concerning the ‘documnetary’ truth of filmic and photographic media.



Mode of instruction

Lecture and presentations

Course Load

  • Total course load: 140 hours

  • Lectures: 26 hours

  • Self-study: 114 hours

Assessment method

Paper (90%) and short writing assignments (10%)
The final mark for the cours is established by determing the weighted average.
Resit: rewriting of paper.


Blackboard will be used for announcements, providing literature and other study materials, peer-review, plagiarism control, and weekly assignments.

Reading list

Nichols, Bill. Introduction to Documentary, 2nd ed. Bloomington: Indiana U.P, 2010. Print.
Grant, Barry Keith and Jeannette Sloniowski, eds. Documenting the Documentary: Close Readings of Documentary Film and Video. Detroit: Wayne State U.P. 1998. Print.


Students need to register in uSis for classes, exams and final papers.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


For questions about the content of the course, you can contact the teacher Dr. E.C.H. de Bruyn.

Administrations Office: Van Wijkplaats.
Coordinator of Studies: mevr. drs. E.M.T.Poolman.


For more information check our website Film- en literatuurwetenschap.