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Workshop 3: Ethics and Representation in Documentary Filmmaking

Primarily Synchronous (June 1-4)

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Workshop Leaders:

Angela J. Aguayo, Illinois, Urbana-Champaign:
James Chase Sanchez, Middlebury College:

The impulse to document and create media representations of our world with audio and visual recording practices is uniquely rhetorical and has captivated our field. From the expanding capacities of participatory research methods to the construction of video essays, rhetoricians are recording, remixing, documenting, and sharing representations of the world as a means of investigation and critical engagement with audiences inside and outside the academy.

This workshop will address documentary practices at the intersection of rhetoric and social justice. How do the stories we record and the representations produced engage the process of social transformation? We are particularly interested in blurring the lines between rhetorical theory and practice, exploring how to open up a dialogue about the relationship between the media maker, documentary representation, and the communities experiencing social injustice.

Themes and projects we are interested in:

  • Documentary projects at any state (from ideas to post-production)
  • Video essay ideas at any state
  • Projects dealing with issues of social justice
  • Projects dealing with ethical or representational concerns

We welcome those who have production skills and those who might be interested in acquiring a production dimension to their research projects. The workshop will include collaborative thinking and group exercises—focusing on production and editing ethics while also allowing newcomers entryways into documentary filmmaking.

Workshop participants will be encouraged to develop their own projects, share resources, and develop a criteria about best practices. These projects can be in any stage of development (idea, draft, or proposal), and we will workshop participant proposals to the next stage of development.

Angela J. AguayoAngela J. Aguayo is an Associate Professor in the Department of Media and Cinema Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is a scholar-media maker whose practice reflects an interdisciplinary approach to documentary, media studies, rhetoric, and critical cultural theory. Her most recent book Documentary Resistance: Social Change and Participatory Media (Oxford University Press, 2019) is focused on agency, collective identification and participatory media cultures, investigating the possibilities for the documentary impulse to engage the process of social change. She is also an award-winning writer, director and producer of multiple documentary shorts utilized in community engagement campaigns, screened at various festivals and museums around the world.


James Chase SanchezJames Chase Sanchez is assistant professor of writing and rhetoric at Middlebury College. His research interests are in cultural and racial rhetorics, public memory, and documentary filmmaking, and his research has appeared in College Composition and Communication, Pedagogy, Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric, and Present Tense. He is currently finishing two book projects: a co-authored manuscript tentatively titled Race, Rhetoric, and Research Ethics and a single-authored manuscript tentatively titled Salt of the Earth: The Rhetoric of White Supremacy. The latter monograph is based partly upon a documentary Sanchez produced, titled Man on Fire, which won an International Documentary Association Award in 2017 and aired on PBS via Independent Lens in 2018. Sanchez is currently producing a new feature-length documentary about an elite New England boarding school that has covered-up sexual assault and rape allegations for several decades.

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