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More Documentary Touchstones  

Michael Fox The pioneering and innovative films that paved the way for the contemporary documentary are well known yet rarely shown. This screening-and-discussion class continues its survey of canonical works of lasting power and influence, from poetic montage to World War II propaganda to cinema verité to stylized enactment. The discussion will encompass such perennial issues as the effect of the camera’s presence on the people being filmed, the filmmaker as activist (or propagandist), the use of metaphor and poetry, the intersection of reality, truth and storytelling, and our evolving relationship to images. 1. TBD 2. A Propos de Nice (Jean Vigo, France, 1930) 25 min & Land Without Bread (Las hurdes) (Luis Bunuel, Spain, 1933) 30 min 3. Night Mail (Harry Watt and Basil Wright, UK, 1936) 27 min + Listen to Britain (Humphrey Jennings and Stewart McAllister, UK, 1942) 20 min 4. Why We Fight: Prelude to War (Frank Capra, USA, 1942) 52 min 5. Chronicle of a Summer (Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin, France, 1961) 85 min 6. The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris, USA, 1988) 102 min To acquaint (or reacquaint) older students with the most important and influential documentaries from the standpoint that they are more knowledgeable about history, filmmaking techniques and documentary ethics than when they originally saw these films. The course reveals how documentaries have evolved in the last 90 years, and what elements remain constant. Michael Fox has been a film journalist and critic since 1987. His current outlets include, Oakland magazine and The (East Bay) Monthly. He curates and hosts the weekly CinemaLit series at the Mechanics Institute in San Francisco, and also teaches documentary courses at OLLI at UC Berkeley. He is a member of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle.


  • Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at San Francisco State University
    835 Market Street, Sixth Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103
    Phone: (415) 817-4243 Website: