Documentary Review

What is a Documentary Film Analysis?
By definition, documentaries are nonfiction films that attempt to document (to record) an event. Often, documentaries aim to reveal
information that is not well known or that the filmmaker feels is overlooked and/or misinterpreted by the mainstream media.
Documentaries are emotionally powerful films that have the potential to introduce viewers to issues impacting their community,
country, and/or continent. Furthermore, they allow the opportunity for social and emotional learning and provide platforms to
engage with issues viewers may never see firsthand.
A documentary analysis involves breaking into small pieces and examining the several elements of the documentary in order to have
a better understanding of the film/issue as a whole. Much like you did for the Super Bowl commercial, youll be looking closely at the
rhetorical situation of the documentary and evaluating its effectiveness.
How do I write a Documentary Film Analysis?
Documentary films use a variety of methods ( images, words, sounds, and various film techniques) to present an argument. View a
documentary film and analyze the rhetorical and persuasive strategies employed by the filmmaker in the construction of the films
argument. Identify the filmmakers thesis and analyze the rhetorical strategies, stylistic persuasive devices, and cinematic techniques used
to develop the films thesis. Take notes as you view the documentary. Consider the following questions as you watch the film and process it
after viewing:
What is the films main argument/purpose?
What group/person/organization made the documentary? Why did they make it?
How does the structure of the film help achieve its purpose?
Who is the target audience?
How does the film appeal to ethos, pathos, and logos?
How do music, camera angles, interviews, scene cuts affect the film? Strengthen pathos, logos, and ethos? Weaken them?
How is the films argument supported (or not supported) through rhetorical strategies? Consider how facts are presented, how the film avoids certain related issues, how it supports or undermines questionable information, etc.
How valid is the argument? Does it contain contradictions? Inconsistencies?
What stylistic persuasive elements do you notice? Allusions? Rhetorical questions? Loaded language?

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