Looking at Documentaries – Media Literacy

link image_film4“Media literacy – with critical thinking, reflection and ethical behaviour at its core – is a key part of what it means to be educated in today’s world.” (from Media Smarts)

To be media literate you  have to be able to find and evaluate  information. Is it what you need? Then you should be able to  synthesize the information you find into useful knowledge and/or communication.

One way to become media literate is through the study of documentaires.

For students:

The presentation Communicative situations (pdf) should help you with what to look for and how to analyse documentaries and/or other films as well as texts.

Some questions to think about:

  • What is a documentary and how is it different from other films?
  • Who made the documentary?
  • Why? (What is the purpose?)
  • What ideas or beliefs do the filmmakers have that you can see in the content?
  • Who are the audiences?
  • How might different people see this film differently?
  • Who and what is shown in a positive/negative light?
  • Why might these people and things be shown this way?
  • Who and what is left out (not shown at all)?

For more detailed instruction on what to think about see  Key Concepts for Media Literacy from Media Smarts (extract below).

1. Media are constructions

Media products are created by individuals who make conscious and unconscious choices about what to include, what to leave out and how to present what is included… As a result of this, media products are never entirely accurate reflections of the real world…

2. Audiences negotiate meaning

Different audiences can take away different meanings from the same product. Media literacy encourages us to understand how individual factors, such as age, gender, race and social status affect our interpretations of media.

3. Media have commercial implications

Most media production is a business… Questions of ownership and control are central – a relatively small number of individuals control what we watch, read and hear in the media.

4. Media have social and political implications

Media convey ideological messages about values, power and authority. In media literacy, what or who is absent may be more important than what or who is included…

5. Each medium has a unique aesthetic form

For teachers:

Looking at Documentaries – A resource package from Hot Docs’ to assist with critical discussion in the classroom. Free PDF download. It is a teaching guide that sets out questions designed to help teachers include the study of documentary film in their curriculum.
Using Docs in the Classroom: A teacher librarian’s personal website where there are excellent resources for teaching with documentary films.
The National Film Board of Canada: On this site is an area with teaching resources and short documentary films that can be used as teaching aids.
Key Concepts for Media Literacy from Media Smarts.

The Representation Project



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