Trends in contemporary documentary filmmaking (Master in Film and Screen Studies)

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Program details
Subject: Trends in contemporary documentary filmmaking
Course: Second
Semester: 2
Modality: Compulsory
Professor: Ana Aitana Fernández Moreno


Is there a new way of approaching the real, how has digital and transmedia transformed documentary, and what themes or movements have emerged in the 2000s? This course explores the ways in which documentary has evolved in this century, and what documentary traditions or resources have persisted or mutated. Students will be able to approach the trends that have marked documentary filmmaking in recent decades. Topics such as the filmmaker of subjectivity, gender awareness, the relevance of personal memory in historical discourse, the impact of socio-economic transformations on the landscape or the development of interactivity and transmedia have been addressed by filmmakers from different continents.


The methodology will be based on lectures – supported by film clips and texts – and class discussion based on the viewing of a documentary or the reading of a text on the subject of the session.


  • UNIT 1. Introduction. New ways of approaching reality
    • Ways of seeing: Les glaneurs et la glaneuse (Agnès Varda, 2000). The ethics of seeing: Harun Farocki. The aesthetics of the post-documentary: the archive and the frontiers of fiction.
  • UNIT 2. The filmmaker’s body
    • Facing illness. The long holy day (De grote vakantie, Johan Van der Keuken, 2000), And now? Remember me (E Agora? Lembra-me, Joaquim Pinto, 2013). Body politic: The odds of recovery (Su Friedrich, 2014).
  • UNIT 3. Minorities and identity politics
    • Queer and transgender documentary practices. Paris is burning (Jennie Livinston, 1990), Kiki (Sara Jordenö, 2016), I hate New York (Gustavo Sánchez, 2018). The biopolitics of gender: Senorita extraviada (Lourdes Portillo, 2001), She’s a boy I knew (Gwen Haworth, 2007), Bixa Travesty (Claudia Priscilla, Kiko Goifman, 2018).
  • UNIT 4. Cinema “I”, subjectivity and life experience
    • Tarachime (Naomi Kawase, 2006), Chiri (Naomi Kawase, 2012). En el nombre de la madre: La deuxième nuit (Eric Pauwels, 2016), Tarnation (Jonathan Caouette, 2003). La subjetividad de Agnès Varda (Las playas de Agnès, 2008). Relectura de los archivos familiares: Un’ora sola ti vorrei (Alina Marazzi, 2002). Enfrentarse al pasado: Irène (Alain Cavalier, 2009), Histoire de ma vie racontée par mes photographies (Boris Lehman, 2002).
  • UNIT 5. Postmemory
    • Trauma and personal memory: Chantal Akerman (Là-bas, 2006, No home movie, 2015), Los Rubios (Albertina Carri, 2003), Rithy Panh: The missing image (2012), Exile (2016). In the name of the father: The missing image (Donald Foreman, 2018). Filmed testimony: Je m’appelle / je demande la lune (Manuela Morgaine, 2017), Ciro y Yo (Miguel Salazar, 2018).
  • UNIT 6. Found footage and official archives
    • Subverting official history: Susana de Sousa, Sergei Loznitsa. El pasado reconstruido: La niebla de la guerra (Errol Morris, 2003), El año del descubrimiento (Luis López Carrasco, 2020). Mockumentary: Mi bretzel mexicano (Nuria Giménez Lorang, 2019). Resistiendo al olvido: Yervant Gianikian y Angela Ricci Lucchi.
  • UNIT 7. A perpetrator’s vision
    • The representation of horror, the re-enactment: El acto de matar (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2010). Vals con Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008). Mirando a los ojos del diablo: Tierra de nadie (Terrade ninguem, Salomé Lamas, 2013).
  • UNIT 8. The distance between filmmaker and reality
    • Ethical issues: Viktor Kossakovski (Los Belov, 1992; Svyato, 2005). La ironía del cineasta para afrontar la historia presente con ironía: La mafia non è più quella di una volta (Franco Maresco, 2019). Docufiction: La plaga (Neus Ballús, 2013), Mudar la piel (Ana Schulz, Cristóbal Fernández, 2018).
  • UNIT 9. Representing history
    • Within the institution: National Gallery (Frederick Wiseman, The war tapes (Deborah Scranton, 2006). Desafiando al poder: Deborah Stratman (O’er the Land, 2008; The Illinois parables, 2016). New observational documentary: from docusoaps to reality TV.
  • UNIT 10. Representing history
    • Film reconstruction and re-enactments as forms of historical representation: La Comuna (París, 1871) (Peter Watkins, 2000), Nuestras derrotas (Jean-Gabriel Périot, 2019). Huellas del colonialismo: Que cada uno se vaya a donde pueda (2009) de Ben Russell, Árboles (Los hijos, 2013), África 815 (Pilar Monsell, 2014), The Host (Miranda Pennell, 2015).
  • UNIT 11. Ethnographic documentary
    • Wang Bing’s observational style (West of the tracks, 2002) and Trinh T. Minh-ha’s gendered perspective of reality. Engagement with history: Darwin’s nightmare (Hubert Sauper, 2004). Spaces in transformation: Under Construction (José Luis Guerin, 2001), The Sky Turns (Mercedes Álvarez, 2004), Edificio España (Víctor Moreno, 2012), Urpean Lurra (Maddi Barber, 2019).
  • UNIT 12. The performative documentary
    • A personal journey: Joaquim Jordà (Monos como Becky, 2003), (Más allá del Espejo, 2006). El docu-memoria desde Stories we tell (2013) de Sarah Polley, hasta Pepe el andaluz (Alejandro Barquero, Concha Barquero, 2015).
  • UNIT 13. Transmedia and interactive documentary
    • Experience and participatory approaches: Immemory (Chris Marker), Universe Within: Digital Lives in the Global Highrise (Katerina Cizek, 2015), Las Sinsombrero (Tània Balló, Serrana Torres, 2015).


Assessment will consist of class participation (10%) and a final essay (90%) based on a theme, filmmaker or trend seen in class.


Baker, Maxine (2006). Documentary in the Digital Age. Oxford: Elsevier.

Bruzzi, Stella (2006). New Documentary. New York: Routledge.

Chapman, Jane (2009). Issues on Contemporary Documentary. Cambridge: Polity.

Farocki, Harun (2015). Desconfiar de las imágenes. Buenos Aires: Caja Negra.

Nichols, Bill (1997). La representación de la realidad. Barcelona: Paidós.

Rabinowitz, Paula (1994). They Must Be Represented: The Politics of Documentary. London and New York: Verso.

Renov, Michael (1993). Theorizing Documentary. New York: Routledge.

Renov, Michael (2004). The subject of Documentary. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.

Tranche, Rafael R. (Ed.) 2006). De la foto al fotograma. Fotografía y cine documental: dos miradas sobre la realidad. Madrid: Ocho y medio, Ayuntamiento de Madrid.

Vinyes, Marina (2015). Usos i abusos de la imatge en l’univers audiovisual de la Shoah. Girona: Documenta universitaria.

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