College of Communication Master of Arts Theses

Date of Award

Spring 6-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Media and Cinema Studies

First Advisor

Kelly Kessler, PhD

Second Advisor

Luisela Alvaray, PhD


This thesis project discusses the issues of objectivity, truth, and reality in documentary filmmaking. This debate has been ongoing since the establishment of the genre. Scholars like Bill Nichols, Michael Chanan, and Jane Chapman argue that the filmmaker’s subjectivity inevitably corrupts any possibility for the attainment of objectivity and that no absolute truth or reality can be captured in documentary film; while scholars like Stephen Mamber and filmmakers who ascribed to the schools of cinema verite and direct cinema suggest that objectivity is attainable through filming real people in uncontrolled situations. By framing the discussion using Nichols and Mamber along with other pertinent film scholars, this analysis investigates how said scholarship works in practice. Through a critical analysis of the film’s pre-production, production, and post-production, Cameron McGill: Dark Times this thesis project contributes to the discussion of objectivity, reality and truth within documentary film by providing an examination of the scholarly issues through production. The inability to capture every moment of McGill’s life during production, the self censorship and censorship of access, the injection of the filmmaker into the action, the facades constructed as a result of the presence of the camera, and the subjectivity of the choices made during production and post-production resulted in a subjective film. When I began working on this project I fully intended to create an objective documentary. Through a reflection of the pre-production, production, and post-production processes in light of pertinent scholarship, I realized that an objective documentary proved to be an unattainable endeavor.

Included in

Communication Commons