Muhlenberg College Fall 2019

Week 8

VOICE in Documentary Work

Location and voice are intertwined in documentary work.  The voice of the documentarian is more than just their literal voice or speech. Like location–which is not just about geographic location–voice has a complex meaning.  Voice is a concept in documentary work that we’re introducing at this point in the semester to help deepen your understanding of how a documentarian’s location informs the work they create.

Please read for Tuesday chapter 3 from Bill Nichols text, Introduction to Documentary, “What gives documentary films a voice of their own?”  This is an ebook accessible via Trexler Library: 

You can also find a pdf copy of the chapter in Canvas under “Files.”

This week we will watch Marco Williams’ film, “Banished.” Many of the concepts and issues of voice that Nichols addresses in his chapter will help guide our discussion and analysis of this film, and of course, inform your next essay iteration. 

ESSAY 2 Details

This 4-6 page essay assignment invites your continued exploration of Coles’ theory of location, through engagement with Nichol’s concept of voice and Marco William’s documentary film, “Banished”. Following your close viewing of the film, consider the following:

What are the implications of location in the film, “Banished”? Your primary consideration is the filmmaker’s location as it relates to his documentary work, but you can also consider location more generally in the film if it serves the development of your thesis.


Your response should carefully consider:

  • The filmmaker’s approach to making the film;
  • The filmmaker’s awareness of how his own location is shaping and represented through the film;
  • The film itself – the lives represented, the perspectives of place, identity, racism, white privilege, social justice, and the stories it renders

Be sure to:

  • Articulate a clear thesis statement that organizes your paper and is supported throughout with specific evidence from the film;
  • Demonstrate a more nuanced understanding of Coles’ theory of location that builds from but goes beyond your discussion in Essay 1;
  • Explore at least one of Nichols’ ideas about voice as it relates to the film and connects to location.

Save your essay exactly as follows: as a .doc or .docx file, with your last name, first initial, and the phrase EssayTwo.  For example: TaubLEssayTwo. Submit your essay via Canvas/Assignments no later than Thursday, October 31, 11:59 p.m.

Blog post 3 due Wednesday! 10/16

Your next blog prompt provides a chance to reflect on Dorothea Lange’s documentary work and to begin tying it to the larger issue of location. This is pre-writing for your next essay which goes deeper into the concept of location.  You’re welcome to write on any aspect of Lange’s work that you find interesting, or begin with this prompt:

With the help of Gordon and Coles, how would you describe Lange’s location as a documentarian photographer? What perspective, or point of view, shaped the way she used her camera? Please include an image in your post that helps illustrate or represent your written reflections. I look forward to reading your ideas on this!