The Borders of Nonfiction: Educational Film and the Documentary Canon

Thursday, October 4, 2012 - 4:00pm
Tawes 2115

Devin Orgeron, North Carolina State University

Abstract: Though documentary as we have come to know it arose from a specifically pedagogical impulse (a fact not lost on early thinkers on the subject), the educational film’s fit within documentary history has been tenuous at best. The excision of the educational film--by which we mean, most broadly, films that teach--from the larger nonfiction conversation is a product of our evolving assumptions about documentary’s representational capacities. Often seemingly artless, direct, unmotivated, and objective, educational films seem to exist outside of documentary’s domain, and have been routinely ignored in recent non-fiction scholarship. Looking closely at a selection of educational films made over the course of the twentieth century that are focused on the natural world, our presentation aims to demonstrate the meta-pedagogical intentionality of golden era educational films in a manner that has implications for our understanding of documentary more generally.

Devin Orgeron is Associate Professor of Film Studies at North Carolina State University. Dr. Orgeron is also co-editor of the recent book Learning with the Lights Off: Educational Film in the United States and the journal of the Association of Moving Image Archivists, The Moving Image.