German Documentary in a Global Context
A survey of the genre and the particular forms it has taken in Germany from 1895 to the present, this course will focus on key examples, including cinematic precursors and experimental forms as well as authored films by Walter Ruttmann, Leni Riefenstahl, Romuald Karmakar, Harun Farocki, and Werner Herzog. These examples will in turn be compared with films from Britain, France, Denmark, Japan, Israel, the US, and the USSR. Materials to be discussed will include (but are not restricted to): actualities, travelogues, avant-garde films, Kulturfilme, party-rally films, Holocaust documentaries, long-term studies, observational films (direct cinema and cinéma vérité), and essay films. While the course is organized as a survey, discussions and assignments will concentrate on developing strategies of formal analysis as well as on framing new research questions. Documentary is not a fiction like (or unlike) any other. It has a history of its own, and one that is worth exploring--especially as documentary forms become increasingly central to media cultures across the board.