CONTEMPORARY DOCUMENTARY, need the book Nichols, Bill. Introduction to Documentary, second edition

Order Details;

You need the book and have to watch the two films

  1. Disney True-Life Adventures (available online)
  2. Winged Migration


Book: Nichols, Bill. Introduction to Documentary, second edition (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010).


  • Suggested reading range:
  • Bill Nichols, “How Can We Describe the Observational, Participatory, Reflexive, and Performative Modes of Documentary Film?” (from Introduction to Documentary)(The book)
  • Selections from Gregg Mitman’s Reel Nature(uploaded)
  • And other files I upload

All files:


You have to read the three models or at least the Bad model and Good model 1 carefully.




In his discussion of documentary origins, Bill Nichols argues that documentary starts to emerge as a recognizable practice when films speak with “voices” of their own.  Documentaries do not “reproduce” the world by capturing sounds and images from the real world, he argues, they “represent” it, shaping the meaning these sounds and images create in a number of ways (through editing, sound, mise-en-scene, cinematography, film style).  As such, they offer perspectives on the world.


Furthermore, Nichols provides a set of tools for analyzing the controlling power (the “voice”) behind the combination of images and sounds that make up the documentary.  He identifies 6 modes—poetic, expository, observational, participatory, reflexive, performative—that serve as conventions for representing the world.


In this paper I would like you to analyze how the contemporary example presents its perspective on the world under consideration comparably and differently than the historical example.


Step 1.  the set of films:


NATURE DOCUMENTARY: Disney True-Life Adventures (available online) and Winged Migration


Step 2.  Analyze the films by answering the following questions about each film:


What is the overall goal of the film?  I.e. what argument does it seek to make about the world?  What role does the object under consideration (nature, sport, music, etc…) play in this film?  How does the way the film was made and the cinematic strategies it employs (reference Nichols’ modes here, whether you think the film fits “cleanly” into one mode or not, and make use of the “elements of film) support and/or shape that argument?


Step 3.  Assess the differences:


Is one model more convincing, more powerful, more pleasurable than another?  Does each speak appropriately for its purported goals or for its contemporary moment?  Has something been lost or gained in the contemporary example?



10 pages. 12 point Times New Roman font.  Double-spaced



Although there are no source requirements, I expect you to reference the appropriate course readings.  In addition, I find that the best papers consistently refer to outside sources.  For this paper, additional writings on the specific films and the genres under consideration are likely to be useful.

(As the experience from the Bad model, the paper gone too far from topic, so I suggest use only sources from the book, the films, and the files I uploaded.)

For citation, use MLA or Chicago style, whichever you prefer.  But be consistent.

Writing about film:

I have attached a pdf on “the elements of film.”  This is a short description of the elements of film and how to go about isolating them, thinking about them, and being prepared to write about them.


  • Cinematography
  • Editing
  • Sound