a) To become aware of the key moments in the history of documentary film, framing them within the broader picture of film history.
b) To be able to question the limits of documentary filmmaking as a concept and set of practices.
c) To connect films’ formal strategies with their underlying ethical and political point of view.
d) To be able to develop an idea into a short documentary film, i.e. to practically apply the knowledge gained.
e) To link the history of documentary film with key moments in the history of the 20th century.
f) To use concepts and movements in the history of documentary film, bearing in mind the technical and aesthetic developments in cinema.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Luís Guilherme Jordão de Mendonça


Weekly - 3

Total - 280

Teaching language





Comolli, Jean-Louis. 2004. Voir et pouvoir: L’innocence perdue : cinéma, télévision, fiction, documentaire. Paris: Éditions Verdier.
Macdonald, Kevin, e Mark Cousins (eds.). 2006. Imagining Reality. Londres: Faber & Faber.
Mendonça, Luís. 2017. Fotografia e Cinema Moderno: Os Cineastas Amadores do Pós-Guerra. Lisboa: Edições Colibri.
Monteiro, Paulo Filipe. 2003. «Parentescos entre ficção e real: O caso do cinema». Revista de Comunicação e Linguagens, Dezembro.
Nichols, Bill. 2017. Introduction to Documentary. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Teaching method

Classes constantly link the question of documentary within cinema to the way different formal strategies shape different representations of reality. Case studies will be historically contextualised and offered for reading – and discussion – in class, with the aim of understanding the documentary movement as a convergence of policies and practices.

Evaluation method

Assessment is based on the conception and development of a project for a film exercise that can last no more than 5 minutes. Assessment focuses more on the project (detailed script integrating issues explored in class) than on the final film object.(100%)

Subject matter

This course unit intends to turn the history of documentary film into a permanent questioning of the limits of image-based cinema vis-à-vis reality-based cinema (to invoke the famous distinction by André Bazin). Making use of films and texts, whether in their full versions or excerpts, classes are based on action-oriented reflection.
1.Lumière revisited: between fiction and documentary.
2. The ethnographic gaze of Edward S. Curtis and Robert Flaherty.
3. Urban symphonies: the city as a set.
4. Joris Ivens conquering the world.
5. The Grierson School: the English pioneers.
6. The New York School: Pare Lorentz and Frontier Films.
7. Direct cinema and cinéma vérité: from Drew and Brault’s America to Rouch and Morin’s Europe.
8. Pathways of the self initiated by the New American Cinema.
9. Observational cinema: Frederick Wiseman and Allan King.
10. Robert Kramer and the portrait of a country.
11. Working with archives: the case of 48 by Susana de Sousa Dias.