“[Through documentary film] you're on a serendipitous journey, a journey which is much more akin to the life experience. When you see somebody on the screen in a documentary, you're really engaged with a person going through real life experiences. So for that period of time, as you watch the film, you are, in effect, in the shoes of another individual. What a privilege to have that experience.”
Albert Maysles, Documentary filmmaker
“Films are a powerful and evocative tool for fostering understanding and tolerance in the world.”
Nelson Mandela, Nobel Laureate for Peace
Documenting Justice is a specialized interdisciplinary course in documentary filmmaking that focuses on topics of social justice. Students devote two semesters to completing the class, which involves study in film theory, documentary history, nonfiction storytelling techniques, and the ethics of documentary and culminates in the creation of an original short documentary film. The class is designed for non-film majors, but those with production experience are encouraged to apply as well.
Two sections of the course are available. Alabama Documenting Justice focuses on issues of justice and injustice in Alabama, while International Documenting Justice, for those who plan to study abroad, allows students to tell social-justice-themed stories from all corners of the globe.
Documenting Justice: Alabama –The fall semester of the course is dedicated to instruction, exercises, and readings that familiarize students with the fundamentals of video production and their application to documentary. Assignments in production, theory, and criticism help students understand the practical and ethical issues in documentary filmmaking. By the end of the first semester, students will be comfortable with the techniques of production and will select topics for their films.
During the spring semester, students work in pairs to shoot and edit a documentary film. Demonstrating a concern for justice in Alabama, such pieces may focus on an individual, a relationship, an occurrence, an institution, a sub-culture, or a worldview. Students will become well acquainted with their subjects through extensive fieldwork, interviews, and research. In producing the final film, students will have access to state-of-the-art digital video cameras and post-production facilities at the College of Communication & Information Studies. The completed films premiere at a public screening in either Birmingham or Tuscaloosa at the end of the semester.
Documenting Justice: International – Students complete the first semester before travelling, in conjunction with students enrolled in the Alabama section of Documenting Justice. During the spring semester or summer term, students take a camera and travel abroad – developing a film topic, working with their subjects, and capturing footage. During the following fall semester, students edit their films. A public screening is held in Tuscaloosa each November. (NOTE: Documenting Justice does not provide funds for international travel. Travel funding and arrangements are the responsibility of the student.)
An award-winning group of filmmakers collaborate as instructors in this team-taught course: Andy Grace, director of Documenting Justice and member of the University of Alabama Department of Telecommunication & Film, and Rachel Morgan, adjunct instructor at UA and instructor of radio and TV at Lawson State Community College. The course also includes guest lectures from other professionals with expertise in documentary filmmaking.
Watch films produced by Documenting Justice students:
For interested students
The year-long course is open to any student pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in any department or graduate school at The University of Alabama and requires no prior experience in filmmaking or production. Because class size is limited, the course is extremely selective and requires an application process which takes place in March. Undergraduate (400-level) credit for the course is available through Telecommunication and Film, Anthropology, New College, and Honors College, and 500-level credit is available through Telecommunication and Film and the Law School. View the Documenting Justice brochure as an Adobe PDF here.
Interested students should complete the short application, and e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org or return it to the Center for Ethics & Social Responsibility, located on the first floor of Temple Tutwiler Hall. Feel free to use additional pages if necessary. The deadline for application is March 9, 2012, but applications will be accepted after this date until all slots are filled. As applications are received, students will be contacted to schedule an interview with instructors. For more information, please call 205-348-6495 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.