Video documentary analysis (2014)

Posted on

The goal of this assignment is to closely observe and analyze a recent education reform video documentary.

View your assigned film on your TrinFlix account (requires Trinity password) and explore the companion site:

When watching your documentary, take notes on overall themes, and mark key scenes with hour-minute timestamps (e.g., 0:38). Watching and discussing films with others is strongly encouraged, but each essay must be written independently. Consider these reflection questions:

  • What is filmmakers’ implicit or explicit theory of change? Specifically, how do they define the problem, the policy chain, and desired goals?
  • Identify the most crucial scenes in the movie (and take at least one screenshot to include in your essay). How did the filmmakers shoot or edit key scenes to convey their story? 1
  • How did the filmmakers blend imagery, words, and sound into a coherent narrative?
  • What policy actions does the film (or companion site) ask viewers to engage in
  • Where are the holes? Whose stories do not appear in this documentary?

After viewing your film, research additional questions (and search for sources beyond the film’s companion website), such as:

  • What were the intended goals of the film, according to essays by (or interviews with) directors, producers, or advocates? Who was their audience, and how did they hope to influence them?
  • What types of groups or individuals have financed or publicized the video?
  • How has the film — or any particular scenes or factual claims — been praised or criticized in education reform debates?
  • What types of audiences have seen the film, and how did they react to what they saw?

When writing your essay, be sure to address these evaluation criteria:

  • Present a clear and insightful thesis in the introduction, which addresses key reflection questions above and offers readers a deeper understanding of the film.
  • Support major claims with persuasive evidence from the video, its companion website, AND at least one relevant external source.
  • Include sufficient background for readers who have not seen the film (such as a one-paragraph plot summary).
  • Support your textual claims with visual evidence by inserting at least one screenshot, with the film’s title and timestamp in the caption.
  • Cite the film and other sources using any scholarly format (such as Chicago-style footnotes, or APA/MLA inline citations with bibliography). To note specific scenes from the film, use timestamps (e.g. 0:54) in place of page numbers.

Sample video citations:
If you use MLA inline citations with a bibliography, an excerpt might look like this:

. . . rates as the most pivotal scene (Guggenheim 0:54).

Bibliography (at the end of the essay):
Guggenheim, Davis. Waiting for “Superman.” 2010. Film.

If you use Chicago-style footnotes, the end of a sentence might look like this:

. . . rates as the most pivotal scene. 2

To learn more about citation styles, see sample papers in Hacker & Fister’s guide or my guide to the free Zotero citation tool.

Expected length is at least 750 words (or longer). Submit as a WordPress post (category = Video analysis 2014, by title) by Sun Feb 23rd at 9pm. Worth 10 points. Optional: add an “about the author” short bio in User > Profile or at bottom of your post.


  1. To learn more about these and other questions that historians and media scholars ask when interpreting films, see Tom Gunning, “Making Sense of Films.” History Matters: The U.S. Survey Course on the Web, February 2002.
  2.  Davis Guggenheim, Waiting for “Superman,” Video documentary, 2010, 0:54.