The River, The City, and Expository Documentary


1.  context for the film--1937 (Pare Lorentz)--how do you explain the problems  and possible solutions to all those who need the information?


--the Depression

--the "Dustbowl"

--Roosevelt elected in 1932 (first of four terms)--initiated the "New Deal"


2.  expository form (continued)


steps of analysis:

1.  identify the problem--does the problem exist?  What is it?

2.  analysis of the problem--what are the causes and effects?  What is the chronology?  What kinds of issues, and secondary problems are related to the main problem?

3. what solutions have been attempted?  Why are they adequate or inadequate?

4.  what are better solutions?  Why?


3.  Lorentz and the film's production (see Barnouw here)


4.  What are the film's strategies in developing its arguments?


5.  How do any of the following concepts outlined by Nichols help us understand how The River advocates its point of view:


          --film/filmmaker/audience relationships

          --“documentary  means representing positions toward social issues (documentary as persuasion)

          --the mode of representation

          --“voice” in documentary



6.  re:  Ellis

          --areas of US doc. production in the 30s?
--purposes of the US Film and Photo League?

--Why was the March of Time successful?

--What were its characteristic features?

--How/why dod US government documentary activity begin?

--What was Lorentz's involvement with the Resettlement Administration (and eventually the Dept. of Agriculture?)

--What "lessons" did Lorentz learn from The Plow that Broke the Plains? What did he do differnetly in producing the River? Why are these films important? What do they tell us about US (compared to British) documentary production?

--What issues did non-goenrmentaly produced doucmentaries take up in the 30s?

--What problems did both productions face?

--What, in Ellis's view, are basic points of comparison between American and British doucments of the 30s?


Nichols, pp. 42-60; 61-81:

--what is "voice" in documentary?

--what does Nichols mean by: informing logic? commentary? perspective?

--what kinds of concepts in general become subjects in documentary?

--what kinds of strategies do documentaries use in their efforts to offer persuasive arguments?






The City and Expository Documentary


1.  who made the film?  why does the source of a film create ethical issues?


2.   how does The City reflect the characteristics of expository documentary?


3.  how does this film compare to others we've seen by Flaherty, Grierson, and Lorentz?