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Unit information: Francophone Women Directors: Documentary Filmmaking in 2020/21

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Unit name Francophone Women Directors: Documentary Filmmaking
Unit code FREN30111
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
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 1990s to the present day. It will introduce students to the history and theory of documentary filmmaking, covering cinéma vérité and direct cinema, the essay film, and more personal essayistic modes. It will also provide an introduction to feminist documentary filmmaking with a focus on the women’s movement of the early 1970s and feminist experimental filmmaking practices. Students will explore ways in which the chosen directors engage with contemporary political and social issues connected to the representation of women’s experience. They will also examine each film’s interrogation of key themes (these might include issues of race, class, age, alienation and community) on a formal level. Questions of truth, authenticity and performance will be considered through 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 French-language films and theoretical texts, and secondary readings will be in English and French.


  1. To introduce students to a selection of French-language documentaries by established and emerging women directors and enable them to develop an understanding of the histories of documentary filmmaking specific to the French-speaking world.
  2. To develop an understanding of feminist film theory and expose students to current debates around the importance of intersectionality as a concept.
  3. To expose students to theoretical texts in English and French on film form, aesthetics, and gender politics
  4. To provide students with the opportunity to undertake close sequence analysis 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.
  2. Describe, analyse, compare and form cogent interpretations of a variety of short and feature-length documentary films.
  3. Respond critically and analytically to the representation of women’s experience, identity and questions of selfhood and female subjectivity in post-1990 documentaries by Francophone women directors.
  4. Demonstrate awareness of theoretical scholarship in the field of study and the ability to articulate a critical position in both oral and written form, as appropriate to level H/6.
  5. Deploy sophisticated audio-visual analytical skills and an ability to use film terminology correctly.
  6. Undertake independent research appropriate to this level of study.

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 x group presentation (film review) (15%, group mark), plus an individual 1000-word reflective report (10%, individual mark), testing ILOs 2-6.

1 x 3000-word essay (75%), testing ILOs 1-6.

Reading and References

Alter, Nora M. and Timothy Corrigan (eds), Essays on the Essay Film (Columbia University Press, 2017).

Bruzzi, Stella, New Documentary, 2nd edn (Oxford and New York: Routledge, 2006).

Foster, Gwendolyn Audrey, Women Filmmakers of the African & Asian Diaspora: Decolonizing the Gaze, Locating Subjectivity (Southern Illinois University Press, 1997).

Nichols, Bill, Introduction to Documentary, 3rd edn (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2017).

Pallister, Janis L. and Ruth A. Hottell (eds.), French-speaking Women Documentarians: A Guide (Peter Lang, 2005).

Tarr, Carrie, with Brigitte Rollet, Cinema and the Second Sex: Women’s Filmmaking in France in the 1980s and 1990s ([2001] London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016).