Open City Documentary Festival

Documentary Storytelling (Online)

Mar 16 — Apr 20
Tuesday Evenings (6.30pm to 9pm)

A popular practice-led course suited to documentary filmmakers, film academics and non-fiction enthusiasts looking to further their approach and understanding of non-fiction cinema and its theoretical applications.

This course will now be delivered via online distance learning. Students will require their own computer or other internet connected device. If you have any questions or concerns about this, please get in contact with the short course manager at

This course is targeted towards documentary practitioners who are either preparing, shooting or editing their documentary; scholars who want to analyse or write about documentaries; and people who are simply passionate about non-fiction films. Each session will include discussions of how theoretical concepts relate to formal considerations in documentary filmmaking.

This course is led by Dr. Catalin Brylla, a practice-led film scholar and a Lecturer in Film and Television at Bournemouth University.

The following topics are only indicative:

Session 1

  • Documentary elements
  • Soviet montage and conceptual watching
  • The Poetic Documentary

Session 2

  • Spatial and emotional impact of shot sizes
  • The immersive actuality of continuity
  • The Observational Documentary

Session 3

  • Character profiling through interviews
  •  The function of cutaways
  •  The Participatory Documentary
  • Other types of participation

Session 4

  • Brecht and defamiliarising the audience
  • The Reflexive Documentary
  • The Hybrid Documentary

Session 5

  • The Expository Documentary
  • Narrative structure: story and plot
  • Narrative point-of-view and subjectivit

Session 6

  •  Documentary comedy and distantiation
  • Parody and reflexivity
  • The Mockumentary
  • The Investigative Documentary Comedy

Wednesday Evenings (6.30pm to 9pm)

Please note: this course will now be delivered via online distance learning, and students will require a computer or other internet connected device. If you have any questions or concerns, please get in contact with Ripley.




Catalin Brylla

Course Tutor

Principal Lecturer in Film and Television at Bournemouth University, and holder of a doctorate in Media and Communications from Goldsmiths, University of London, his research aims for a pragmatic understanding of documentary spectatorship with regards to experience, empathy and narrative comprehension. In a larger context this work also advocates for the filmmaker’s understanding of how audio-visual and narrative representation impacts on society’s understanding of stereotyped groups, such as disabled people, women and African cultures. He is currently editing two books, “Documentary and Dis/ability” (with Helen Hughes) and “Cognitive Theory in Documentary Film Studies” (with Mette Kramer). As a practice-led researcher, he has just completed two feature documentaries about blindness and the everyday, and another feature documentary, “Zanzibar Soccer Dreams” (with Florence Ayisi), about Muslim women playing football.