Inspired by George’s discussion of his planned course for Spring 2005, I’ve begun thinking about what I’ll be teaching next semester in my English 1102 freshman composition classes. Right now, I’m thinking about focusing the class on documentary film. It’s the topic that I’m most passionate about right now, and the topic would certainly lend itself well to paper assignments in that many documentaries structure themselves as argumentative.
I’ve just begun thinking about this topic in earnest, and I haven’t yet decided what the course would look like. I imagine that it would heavily favor contemporary documentaries (films made in the last ten years), but I would also feel the need to teach some foundational docs, too. A tentative list might include:
- Nanook of the North
- Harlan County, USA
- Titicut Follies
- The Thin Blue Line (or another Errol Morris)
- Capturing the Friedmans (maybe, since I’m writing about it)
- Control Room
- The War Room
- Sherman’s March
I’d also be interested in teaching a Maysles Brothers film, and I’d like to include a “rockumentary,” probably Don’t Look Back. My list is heavily tilted towards American political docs, so I’m trying to find ways to either reduce that emphasis or to simply run with it. And with Capturing the Friedmans, I’d love to supplement that discussion with clips from An American Family or something similar (maybe Seven Up?). Because I haven’t quite decided what I want to do with the topic of documentary film, I’m still trying to put together an exact list (given the limitations of the class, I’m guessing I’ll do 6-7 films, tops).
In addition, rather than doing a “group hypertext project,” I’ve considered requiring that groups make a short 5-10 minute (?) documentary film using equipment checked out from Georgia Tech’s library, which they could edit using iMovie, which is available in many of Tech’s computer labs. That idea is pretty tentative right now. I’m not sure how much tech support I would need to provide, and it’s possible that supervising 15 student film projects might be more than I want to take on right now. On the other hand it could be pretty damn cool, especially if 1-2 of the student groups put something cool together. Right now, I’m leaning towards a “more traditional” group hypertext project where students could research a documentary film or filmmaker, although I’m unsure how that would work right now.
The only drawback that I can imagine is that it would be a royal pain to arrange for students to see all of the films I’d like to teach. Some of them aren’t widely available (according to IMDB, Titicut Follies isn’t even on VHS or DVD, so that’s probably out), and if I schedule an evening screening time, I imagine that a significant percentage of my students won’t be able to attend.