Midterm Review


1.  What does the videotape of the Rodney King beating (and its use in the "King" trial) illustrate about the problematic nature of film documents (photographic "fact" and evidence)?

What do we mean by the term "documentary film"?  How is documentary a different mode from experimental film?  narrative film?


2.  What are the basic elements of the style of Nanook of the North?

                --How does this film suggest a "romantic" tradition of documentary?

                --What does the film argue?

                --How does the production of this film establish precedents for subsequent documentaries?

                --Do the reenactments of older ways of Inuit life break or maintain the indexical bond to the historical world that Bill Nichols says is fundamental to documentary film?


3.  How is Grierson in Night Mail opposite from Flaherty in both style and purpose?  Voice?

                --How did Grierson define "documentary"?  "propaganda"?

                --What did Grierson see as the role of film in a society?       

                --How do Night Mail and Listen To Britain offer examples of stylistic experimentation with documentary film form?  Why is this important?  Why are these largely expository in mode, rather than observational, interactive, or reflexive?


4.  Why, in Nichols’s view, does Land Without Bread represent people in the ways that we see in the film?

What evidence does the film offer of the reflexive mode of documentary at work?


5.  What is there about American culture that would impede the development of government- sponsored documentary?

                --How do The River and The City exemplify the expository mode of documentary?

                --How--stylistically and/or philosophically--does Pare Lorentz compare to Grierson?  How are the two different in the range of contributions they made to communication through documentary film?

                --How is The City indebted to films like The River, Nanook of the North, and even Night Mail?


6.  How does Triumph of the Will occupy a stylistic middle ground between more formalist works (such as Rain, Night Mail and Listen to Britain) and traditional government-sponsored documentaries made in the 1930s in the US and Great Britain?

                --What formal strategies are at the core of the film's visual effectiveness?  examples?

                --Why are its arguments potentially persuasive?  What are the basic ethical issues the film raises?  Are they the same ethical issues that occur with other documentaries?


7.  How does Prelude to War inherit traditions in the documentary mode, and how does it put those precedents to use?  How is the film a direct response to Triumph of the Will?  What makes it effective as such a response?


8.  How is Memphis Belle similar to/different from other documentaries of its time?


9.  How does Night and Fog communicate its concerns with:

                --time and memory?

                --documents as documents?

                --cultural responsibility?


Again, as with other films we’ve studied, apply these questions in your review:  what mode or modes of documentary are at work in the film?  What characterizes the “voice” of Night and Fog?  What are the strategies the film employs in forwarding persuasive argument, and what precisely is the film arguing?