Documentary Film Review

Documentary Film Review

Documentary Film Review

Every documentary makes an argument, whether implicitly or explicitly, and attempts to persuade you to believe in a particular position. Does, for instance, the film score use romantically melodious violins or head jarring percussion (pathos)? If so, when and why? Are well-known authorities stating their views (ethos)? Does the film use significant amounts of data or facts (logos)? Is the script emotionally manipulative, informative, or argumentative? Which of the three appeals does the filmmaker use most often and why? Pay close attention to the filmmakers assumptions and methods of presentation.

At the outset, try and understand as fully as possible what the film is trying to say. Consider both the direct message it is sending and the image it is trying to create. Try to watch the film carefully several times. What are its central themes? What is its central conflict? What is at risk and what creates the tension in the film? Consider also the soundtrack, cinematography & lighting, the historical background, the films organization, and character development. Is the narrative chronological and sequential or does the timeframe shift from past to present? How does each of these filmmaking techniques contribute to the films argument or become part of the pathos, ethos or logos used in the film?


Your task is twofold.

Write your own analysis of the films argument and how the appeals contribute to its construction.
Analyze how TWO published reviews represent the film.
Although you must be knowledgeable about the film, your essay should balance your interpretation and analysis with the media sources depiction of the film, its themes and artistic techniques. Weave together your analysis of the film and compare or contrast your analysis with that of your sources. You may take a stance about the film or the essays, but you must support any stance you take with evidence from the film and the texts.


Locate two reviews of the film youve selected and argue which most effectively and convincingly argues its points. Of course, you must support your positions with evidence in the articles text or the film itself.

You must select articles from the following types of sources:

A reputable film review online source
An article from a foreign newspaper or magazine
An article from a S. magazine or newspaper
Things to Remember

-Your essay will be more interesting if you seek sources that take varied, perhaps even extreme, stances. In other words, dont just use the first sources you find if they all take similar positions.

-You do not have to agree with the authors biases or even to like the article in question to argue that it succeeds as a piece of rhetoric.

-Remember to analyze both the film and the articles.

-Dont get caught up in arguing for or against the films ideas. Even as you argue (in third person) which author creates the strongest argument, you are not making a personal statement, but a claim based upon evidence from the text.

-You may need to use the rhetorical modes such as definition, compare/contrast, classification/division, cause/effect, exemplification and illustration to make your points clear. You will definitely be addressing the presence of pathos, ethos and logos in the film and in the reviews.

Works Cited Page

Your Works Cited page needs to include at least THREE (3) entries. This includes primary sources (like the film itself) and secondary sources (like the reviews). Do not include tertiary sources (like encyclopedias).  This must be in alphabetical order and in correct MLA format.


MLA Format

Double spaced
8 12 x 11 white paper
1″ margins
Last name and page number as a header in upper right-hand corner
MLA style in-text citations
MLA style Works Cited Page
4-5 pages (not including Works Cited Page)