The intensive five-week seminar “Documentary and History: War, Memory and Trauma”, co-taught by Meg McLagan and Lynn Novick will be held at CMC from Oct. 14 to Nov. 18 with a week off for fall break. The course includes film screenings from a wide range of resources and discussion of topics ranging from the role filmmakers should play in society to the subjective truth in documentaries.

Novick explained to the Forum why she considered the course’s topic to be of major importance. “The current generation of college students is largely separated from the war. However, there’s still war going on, and people need to understand it before they can jump into any conclusions or decisions.” Because documentary offers a unique way of recording and displaying history, Novick hopes it will improve people’s awareness on controversial topics.

“Documentary is not an objective truth,” Novick observed. “It’s the filmmaker’s exploration of historic chaos and their demonstration of what happened.” Throughout the course, students will gain a deeper insight into the convoluted relationship between authenticity, fiction, and documentary.

Apart from the debate on critical issues in documentary-making, it’s important to notice that filmmakers carry the heavy responsibility to promote history. CMC students are expected to be socially responsible and active citizens, and can find a unique chance to be socially engaged through an artistic way in this seminar.

CMC students have shown great anticipation for the course. Jack Houghteling ’14, a history major at CMC discussed his understanding of the topic: ”History is a combination of visual, sound, and human sentiment. What a masterful documentary does is inter-weave these different properties while adding to them a narratorial component of its own, thus forging a dialogue between present and past.” Benjamin Baker ’14 who’s also a history major noted: “The seminar looks very interesting and offers a unique approach to studying not only history, but the presentation of history. History has many lenses from which one can study it, like gender vs economics and this course offers another one.”

Because the course’s time span is relatively short, the seminar will be primarily focused on a theoretical approach. Novick expressed her expectation for CMC students and their diverse ideas: “We hope to hear more from the students, not just teach – we’ll come as an open book to accept ideas.”

As there are still a few seats available for the course, those interested should contact the registrar or email the Gould Center at [email protected] to sign up.

Lynn Novick is an American director and producer. Emmy and Peabody award winning Novick has produced, with Ken Burns, acclaimed history documentaries include: The War (2007), Baseball: The Tenth Inning (2010) and Prohibition (2011). Their latest project on the Vietnam War is slated for broadcast in 2016.

Meg McLagan is a documentary filmmaker and cultural anthropologist. Her acclaimed production include Tibet In Exile (1990), Lioness (2008), The Invisible War (2011). She currently teaches in Columbia University.


  1. This looks awesome! It looks like there is also a workshop next Thursday on how to make a documentary film before Dorothy Fadiman’s ath talk ( Seems like both opportunities could be really cool for people who want to make/are interested in documentaries.

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