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Unit information: Francophone Women Directors: Documentary Filmmaking in 2021/22

Unit name Francophone Women Directors: Documentary Filmmaking
Unit code FREN30111
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Albertine Fox
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of French
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will allow students to study documentaries by Francophone women directors from the late 1970s to the present. It will introduce students to histories and theories of documentary filmmaking, providing an introduction to feminist documentary filmmaking in French and Anglophone contexts, while also recognising the blanks and erasures in those histories. With a focus on feminist experimental filmmaking practices and covering secondary literature on (neo)colonial and postcolonial thought, geo-politics, and sexual politics, students will investigate how the directors and their films engage both formally, thematically, and in terms of narrative structure, with contemporary political and social issues connected to the representation of women’s experiences. They will also examine each film’s interrogation of key themes (encompassing race, sexuality, class, religion, and age). Questions of truth, authenticity, and performance will be considered alongside reference to voice, storytelling, and representational choices that both challenge and exploit techniques deployed in mainstream narrative cinema. Students will develop an advanced understanding of the basic tenets of documentary film theory from a gendered perspective, while furthering their skills in critical thinking, oral presentation, and close analysis. A varied range of critical perspectives will be discussed through the study of set films and theoretical texts, and secondary readings will be in English and French.


  • To introduce students to a selection of French and Arabic speaking documentaries by established and emerging women directors from the Francophone world, enabling them to develop an understanding of the histories of documentary filmmaking from a range of critical standpoints.
  • To develop an understanding of feminist film theory and its limitations, and expose students to academic debates around intersectionality, with a focus on its critical potential and the ways in which its potency has been undermined.
  • To expose students to theoretical and critical texts in English and French on film form, spectatorship, and documentary practice.  
  • To provide students with the opportunity to undertake close sequence analysis via oral presentations and written work, and engage in broader socio-cultural critical analysis of secondary material.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a broad knowledge of different forms and styles of non-fiction filmmaking, including questions pertaining to the politics and aesthetics of documentary film.
  2. Respond critically and analytically to the representation of women’s experiences across a variety of primary films from different regions of the Francophone world.
  3. Demonstrate awareness of theoretical scholarship in the field of study and the ability to articulate a critical position as appropriate to level H/6.
  4. Deploy sophisticated audio-visual analytical skills and an ability to use film terminology correctly.
  5. Undertake collaborative group work activities appropriate to this level of study, and collaborative assessment in the form of a short film-review delivered orally.

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous sessions and asynchronous activities, including seminars, lectures, and collaborative as well as self-directed learning opportunities supported by tutor consultation.

Assessment Information

1 group oral presentation in pairs (15 mins) (25%), group mark, testing ILOs 2-5

1 extended essay, 4000 words (75%), testing ILOs 1-4


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. FREN30111).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.