This capstone course is designed for CMS majors who are familiar with the history and theory of film, but it does not require previous coursework on either documentary or the avant-garde. We will explore each film together, in depth, and in the spirit of what the great American filmmaker Stan Brakhage called an “adventure of perception.” Documentary and the avant-garde represent different filmmaking practices, each with various agendas and approaches, and each with a different history. But they are also interconnected. This course will survey the historical and contemporary intersections of documentary and the avant-garde through films by John Akomfrah, James Benning, Luis Buñuel, Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel, Bruce Conner, Robert Flaherty, Georges Franju, Robert Gardner, Patricio Guzmán, Werner Herzog, Joris Ivens, Claude Lanzmann, Ross McElwee, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Agnès Varda, Dziga Vertov, and Andy Warhol, among others. My hope is that their films will alter how you think about moving images, especially in relation to the act of seeing. The goal of this course is to see better, or at least to see differently. What that means for each of us will vary, but that’s the goal.
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