PCMS: Documentary Studies symposium

I'm pleased to announce the April event for the Philadelphia Cinema and Media Seminar:

Documentary Studies: A State of the Field Symposium

Saturday, April 11
Temple University Center City (TUCC)
room 320
10:30 AM - 5:15 PM

This one-day symposium will gather area scholars and media makers in a conversation about documentary studies today. Documentary studies has often held a minority but important position within the larger field of film studies. During the 1980s and 1990s, post-semiotic interventions into the truth and meaning of documentaries dominated the research agenda. Lately, newer concerns – from a social theory of cinema to the phenomenology of spectatorship – have supplemented this agenda. How do we best characterize documentary studies today? How has the subfield responded to wider changes in the discipline and to changes in documentary itself? How has the relationship between documentary makers and documentary scholars changed?

To address these questions, the symposium will comprise panels and workshops, allowing for both substantive scholar or artist presentations and wider dialogue. Contexts and Institutions will ask in workshop format how have documentary institutions evolved, particularly in the contemporary mediascape. Documentary Studies: Traditions and New Directions will explore new methodologies and research agendas in the discipline and weigh them against an impressive body of scholarship already existing. Non-Griersonian Genres will theorize nonfiction filmmaking that departs from the Griersonian documentary model: experimental documentaries, essay films, etc.


10:30 – 12:00



D.B Jones (Drexel University), on film policy and the National Film Board of Canada

Patricia White (Swarthmore College), on distribution and Women Make Movies

MarĂ­a Teresa Rodriguez (University of the Arts) on public broadcasting and community video

Ellen Spiro (Mobilus Media), on activist documentary

Ben Kalina (Temple University) on environmental production practices

1:30 – 3:15

Documentary Studies: Traditions and New Directions


Jane Gaines (Columbia University), on documentary cinephilia

Jonathan Kahana (New York University), on reenactment

Warren Bass (Temple University), on fictionalization and Leacock

Chris Cagle (Temple University), on documentary reception studies and Grey Gardens

3:30 - 5:15

Non-Griersonian Genres


Nora Alter (University of Florida) , on the essay film

Elisabeth Subrin (Temple University), on conceptualism and experimental appropriations of documentary

Rod Coover (Temple University), on the artifact and the found footage film

Jason Zuzga (University of Pennsylvania), on the nature documentary

In addition, Ellen Spiro will be showing her latest work Body of War at 7pm in LPAC Cinema at Swarthmore on Friday, April 10.

And Haverford is screening a documentary film series called Strange Truth. The first has already shown, but this next Tuesday is Jeanne C. Finley, a screening and lecture on her work as video artist and documentarian: Tuesday, April 7, 4:30pm, Sharpless Auditorium, Haverford College


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