Assignment: Writing a Critique of a Documentary
Writing a critique is a means of expressing one’s opinion, assessing the value and importance of a “source”, and is evaluative. However, critiques are not simply based on our feelings, but rather, they are based on criteria established by both the discipline, the source itself and the standards set forth by the writer.
You have established a knowledge base in this course for a variety of topics from the readings, and you have learned how to evaluate sources of evidence based on bias and logic.
Objective: to evaluate and assess the usefulness and quality of a source (a documentary)
Once you have chosen a source for critique, you must establish what standards and criteria you will use to determine its value. You should determine (you will not write these question/answer style in your essay but rather consider them in your development of the essay):
A. Position-who produced/backed the source (an educational institution? Entertainment company? A profit or non-profit?)
B. Purpose (what is the point? Why did the filmmaker create the film? What is the purpose of the website? (to sell, inform, entertain)
C. Audience (who is the audience and how do you know?)
D. What evidence is used to deliver the message? Is it valid? Does it stand up to other sources of information? For websites, if there is information listed, is it cited?
E. What methods are used to create the position? (In other words, are the means of relaying the information effective? Does the film/website rely on sensationalism, pathos, ethos, logos, imagery, color, shock value, credentialed supporters, personal testimonies?)
F. Explain your judgments using sourced materials and/or scenes, and information from the source itself.
G. Conclude something about the overall value of the film.
Your essay should include:
* An introduction that includes your own original thesis statement regarding the film
Thesis for a documentary critique: EX: Food Inc. makes a profound statement about what Americans are afraid to say aloud: we don’t really want to know where our food comes from, because if we did, we would have to embrace change or wrestle with our consciences.
Your critique would also include:
*A brief summary of the documentary including the theme and its main points (first or second paragraph)
*an explanation of the purpose and audience
*a discussion of methodology employed in the film (perhaps use of scenes, descriptions, discussion of the use of evidence, including interview and testimony)
*a discussion of how effectively the methodology was used and its validity (how effective was the film and why, how does the contents of the film measure up against outside resources, contemporary discussions and real life)
Example of criteria for a documentary:
The use of graphic imagery, statistics by the FDA, interviews with corporate vs. private farmers and environmental science based evidence all create a sense of urgency regarding the treatment of animals and abundance of waste in our food system. (The writer would then give specific examples from the film and discuss how those examples support the thesis).
*a discussion of how you determined the evaluation of the topic, including outside opinions and background (how did you say you were going to evaluate it?)
*Conclude with a summative evaluation of the film reinforcing your thesis.
Your final essay should:
1. Be in MLA format
2. Have an original title (not the title of the documentary)
3. Be a minimum of 750 words (Critiques are not always lengthy, but qualitative)
4. Show an understanding of the writing process and knowledge of the assignment.
5. Use clear criteria for which you establish your critique
6. Be nearly error free.