Paper Drafts Due Tomorrow (Tue May 16)

Hi Everyone – This is simply a reminder that tomorrow night in class, you should bring three printed copies of your paper drafts – the research paper or the analytical paper about your short documentary. I will collect one of the drafts and you will look at the other copies with a peer review group. Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions!

Short Documentary Films – Class on May 9

Terminal Bar (Stefan Nadelman, 2003, 22 minutes)

Ten Minutes Older (Herz Frank, 1978, 9 minutes)

Birth Place (Ramona Diaz, 2017, 9 minutes)

Who Makes the Bronx (Giacomo Francia, 2016, varying times) – a series of very short profile docs

Demon in the Freezer (Errol Morris, 2016, 18 minutes)

Animated Life: Mary Leaky (2016, 7 minutes)

A Ride Home from Prison (Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega, 2016, 7 minutes)



Tips for Shooting your Short Documentary

For those of you who are shooting your short documentary film, here is a link from a vlogger who regularly uses her phone for taking good quality video. Some of the BIG tips:

  1. Shoot in LANDSCAPE mode (long image rather than tall!)
  2. Make sure your subjects face the light source (rather than stand in front of the light)
  3. Put your phone in Airplane mode so that your shooting isn’t interrupted by texts or calls
  4. Try to make your camera stable so that your image isn’t shaky (whether by holding it with both hands, setting it on a table on its side, using a phone tripod, or a selfie stick)

Thoughts on Tongues Untied and Autobiography

Tongues Untied: Filmmaker Interview with Marlon Riggs

The above link will take you to a short video (1 min) from an interview with Riggs when Tongues Untied was first broadcast on PBS stations across the country in 1991. He describes feeling ambivalent about describing his own experiences in this film. One such scene is when he narrates three pivotal episodes from his childhood in the south. The short clip below comes from that scene. Riggs’s autobiography is a comparatively small part of this documentary which includes many other kinds of scenes – it feels like an anthology or a variety show at times – but his story is powerful. What are your overall responses to this film, and what effect or impact do you feel his autobiography has on your reaction to the film? Respond in the comments below, and as others reply, feel free to reply to their points / questions too.


SNOW DAY! Online Class Tomorrow


Hi Everyone, As I’m sure you’re aware by now, QCC will be closed tomorrow for snowmaggedon 2017. So this means we won’t meet, BUT, your first movie review and your blog post for tomorrow are still due, so please write away! You should post the review to the assignments area of our Blackboard page.

QCC requires that we either make up for this missed class later, or we come up with a way to replace it now. So what I propose is that you all watch our movie for tomorrow on your own (it’s online to watch via QCC’s website) and respond to a blog post that I’ll write about it tomorrow afternoon. This will be an additional post for everyone to do to make up the missed week, and you’ll get the credit for it by replying / commenting on my post.

The movie that’s on our syllabus for tomorrow is available to watch online through the QCC library databases. The movie is called Tongues Untied, and it’s available to stream online through  Kanopy. I will also share with you all the power point presentation on this film and Marlon Riggs, the filmmaker, via our Course Group – it will be a PDF file. So take a look at that for some background (you’ll find it in the Files area of the Course Group – which is accessible via “Go To Group” tab on the Blog Page.

Here’s how you locate the movie online:

  1. Go to the QCC library website and choose Kanopy from the A-Z Database list:
  2. If you’re off campus, you’ll be required to enter your library barcode, and the screen you see will look something like the image below these instructions.
  3. Once you’re in the Kanopy page, you can simply type “Tongues Untied” into the search bar at the top of the page and watch it there.

Our Blog: GO!

Hi Everyone, This is a reminder that you should take a look at the blog and post today before class in order to receive full credit for this week’s blog assignment. Many of you missed past posts as well, so if you post more than once this week, I’ll give you partial credit for those missed. Keep in mind that you might find commenting on existing posts a good option – you need to do that at least four times.

I was recently doing some web browsing and came across this parody video. It uses the styles of a typical short doc posted online. It’s 4 minutes long, by Jim Archer and about a *fascinating* subject: Phil. ENJOY! And Go Post!


A Powerful Oscar Nominated Short Doc


Link to Film

As some of you may be aware, over many months now there have been refugees from wars in the middle east seeking asylum in foreign countries. The countries who feel the pressure of these refugees the most are those that share borders with neighboring countries. Greece, with its many islands near Turkey, has seen tons of refugees coming to its shores on unsafe boats and rafts, and local Greek coast guard forces are often the only ones who can respond to immediate problems these people face on the Aegean sea (that separates Turkey from Greece). This short film documents one day in the life of a Greek coast guard captain and his team as they attempt to rescue refugees from the sea. It’s a tough film to watch at times – they must take efforts to save the lives of children and adults who have gone overboard into the sea and at times they fail in their efforts – but it’s such an important issue to be aware of.

What I think is pretty interesting from the perspective of documentary aesthetics is the way the filmmaker embeds himself within the coast guard members. In the short film, you can tell that he’s got the camera strapped to him in some way while he assists the sailors in pulling people up into the boat and out of the frigid water. He doesn’t stand back and simply observe as if his presence there doesn’t affect things. In fact, in many scenes the number of refugees seem too many to fit even on the coast guard boat, so even one additional person taking up space without helping would be detrimental. We talked on Tuesday about ethics in documentary filmmaking, and I wonder what you all think of those conversations here? We talked at some length about disclosing to your subjects (the people you film) all of the possible outcomes of their participation in your film. In this case, these refugees are not being identified individually. So while I imagine this filmmaker discussed the project at some length with the coast guard members and the captain before they allowed him on their boat, the same discussions wouldn’t have been possible for all of those refugees (many of whom don’t likely speak Greek anyway). What do you feel is the filmmaker’s obligation to them? Or is the desire to make more people aware of how serious the refugee problem is so strong that it means the director can “use” these people in his film without explicit permission?

There are other shorts nominated for the Oscar this year – two them are available on Netflix: “The White Helmets” and “Extremis” I’ll be very interested to see which one wins!