Center for Documentary

The proposed Center for Documentary at the University of Arizona will catalyze the development, production and exhibition of documentary films, web-delivered non-fiction media, and interdisciplinary scholarship, in support of the research, teaching and community engagement missions of the University.  Our project seeks to formalize existing alliances and collaborations across programs, disciplines and colleges, to synergize resources and expertise already available on campus, and to build on established relationships with community partners such as the Loft Cinema and the Tucson Film Office. 

Working with campus and community partners, and local, regional, national and international media arts organizations, the Center will present public programming that enhances community engagement and public discourse about UA research, including film screenings, workshops, panels, conferences and symposia that engage documentary film theory and criticism alongside discussion of film content and topical issues. 

To address the need for graduate-level instruction in documentary studies and film production, the Center will facilitate collaboration among faculty in Film & Television and allied fields, to establish a graduate minor in documentary filmmaking that trains students to produce high-quality films that draw from research in diverse disciplines. 

Faculty in a range of disciplines across the university are already making, researching, and teaching about documentary practices, but are often unaware of each other’s work, and lack an institutional structure to facilitate collaboration, and to provide support for producing and exhibiting their work. There are numerous related programs and initiatives already underway on campus whose impact and reach could be amplified by a dedicated Center for Documentary.

Similarly, in recent years, a growing number of UA undergraduate and graduate students from a wide variety of fields have expressed interest in making documentary films about, and as part of, their academic research.  But there is currently no systematic curricular support for such endeavors. While it is possible for enterprising students to secure equipment via the Office of Student Computing Resources (OSCR) labs or through community organizations like Access Tucson and Pan Left Productions, unless they have had prior training in media production, such students lack the knowledge and expertise necessary for effectively communicating their ideas in the medium of documentary film.

In order to create an institutional structure that can best serve the needs of many different campus programs, The Center for Documentary will be developed collaboratively, with representation from a wide range of disciplines. Core expertise in filmmaking will come from film production faculty from the School of Theatre, Film and Television, along with the Hanson Film Institute. Faculty from participating colleges will contribute topical, theoretical, and discipline-specific and methodological courses to broaden and deepen the intellectual foundations of the Center and promote the study of diverse documentary practices and artists across the globe. Curricular support will include the creation of an interdisciplinary graduate minor to be housed in Film & Television (FTV).