Open City Documentary Festival

7 – 13 September 2022
in London

Documentary Storytelling (Online)

Price £150 first 5 weeks only / £250 full course

Location Online Distance Learning, Duration Tuesday evenings across 5 to 10 weeks, 6:30-9pm UK time, Dates  Apr 25 — Jul 4

Led by Dr. Catalin Brylla, Principal Lecturer in Film and Television at Bournemouth University, this course is targeted towards documentary practitioners who are either preparing, shooting or editing their documentary, scholars who want to analyse or use documentary as a research methodology, and people who are simply passionate about non-fiction films. Keeping the balance between the theory OF practice and the theory IN practice, each session will include discussions of how concepts relate to formal considerations in documentary filmmaking. Participants will also learn how to critically frame their film practice in order to produce thought-provoking films that have social and cultural implications.

This course takes place across 10 Tuesday Evenings (6.30pm to 9pm) from 25th April to 4th July, with a break on 30th May. You can choose to attend the first 5 sessions of the course only, or to attend all 10 sessions.


Indicative Course Outline:

Session 1: Soviet Montage and Poetic Documentary

  • Documentary elements
  • Soviet montage and conceptual watching
  • The poetic documentary

Session 2: Continuity and Observational Documentary

  • Spatial and emotional impact of shot sizes
  • The immersive actuality of continuity
  • The observational documentary

Session 3: Interviews and Participatory Documentary

  • Characterisation through interviews
  • The function of cutaways
  • The participatory documentary

Session 4: Defamiliarisation and Reflexive Documentary

  • Brecht and defamiliarising the audience
  • The reflexive documentary
  • The hybrid documentary

Session 5: Narrative and Point-of-View

  • Narrative structure: story and plot
  • Narrative point-of-view
  • Creating empathy for characters

Session 6: Comedy Documentary

  • Documentary comedy and distantiation
  • Parody and mockumentaries
  • The investigative documentary comedy

Session 7: Materialities: Objects and Spaces

  • The mediation of space and time
    Everyday materialities
  • Memory as trace and event

Session 8: Essay Film

  • Portrait essay
  • Travel essay
  • Diary essay
  • Editorial essay
  • Refractive essay

Session 9: The Other and Performative Documentary

  • Representing the Other
  • Embodied knowledge
  • The performative documentary

Session 10: Stigma and Stereotypes

  • Stereotypes and social stigma
  • Methods for de-stigmatising communities
  • Case study: undoing disability stereotypes


“I enjoyed the course. It was my first documentary course, and the final result was positive. I have learned a lot and have much more to learn. The programme was good for a short course—dynamic classes balanced between the contents, debate and participation.” – Ricardo Sá Nogueira, previous student

“The course was brilliant, very rich in content and interactive. Catalin has been extremely supportive throughout, provided a lot of resources and offered great analytical depth, which was very suitable to my needs.” – Eleni Pappa, previous course participant


This course will be delivered via online distance learning, and students will require a computer or other internet connected device.

1x Universal Credit bursary place is available for this course. Please see our bursary policy here.

Booking closes at 12pm on 25th April.

If you’d like to be notified about this course’s future running dates, please fill in this quick form. If you have any questions about the course, get in touch with

(Image: Still from The Gleaners and I, Agnès Varda, France, 2000)



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.