Concentration in Documentary Studies

Available to Film Studies and Media Studies majors

Documentary (aka non-fiction) refers to work that purports to present factual information about the world outside the text, and the photographer’s, film/video maker’s or writer’s response to that phenomenon.

One cannot overstate the importance and prevalence of documentary forms in our lives. As the major alternative to fictional works, documentary enables media makers and audiences to research and engage with economic, social, political and personal realities in powerful ways, often in service of the goal of advocacy for social justice.

Through a combination of theory and practice courses, this concentration offers students pathways through the aspirations, accomplishments and controversies embedded in the documentary idiom.

Students will study the ways that documentary works variously witness, question, critique, commemorate, expose, arouse, reflect upon, conjure, animate and create social life. They will study the ways that still and moving images and non-fiction texts mediate objective and subjective accounts of the world, toward critical control over documentary’s rhetorical strategies, and its connections to a wide range of inquiries across the academy. 

Jacqueline and John Kennedy looking rightNot least, students will make their way through the core problems of documentary ethics, including the nature of image-based advocacy and commentary, the dialectic over the fidelity and mendacity of appearances, as well as problems of the credibility, authenticity and trustworthiness of representation.

Students who complete this concentration will acquire the knowledge, tools and training that will enable them to understand the varieties of documentary form—prose, still photography and video and filmmaking—and the ways such forms have been produced across history. Its goals coincide with Emory’s objective of being engaged in Atlanta, the United States and the world.


Students must complete by the end of their first semester, junior year:

FILM 106 Photography I
FILM 107 Intro to Digital Video
FILM 393 Documentary Film and Media History

They can then choose any four of the following courses:

ANT 385 Special Topics (when Ethnographic Cinema)
ENGCW 379 (when Fifty Shades of Grey: Journalism and Non-Fiction Ethics)
FILM 206 Photography II
FILM 300 Filmmaking Practicum
FILM 385 Documentary Filmmaking I
FILM 479 Filmmaking Capstone