In 1958 the filmmakers of the Disney documentary White Wilderness pushed a group of lemmings over the edge of a cliff and edited this footage to make it look as if the lemmings committed suicide. While there is no proof that lemmings actually do commit suicide, the suicidal lemming remains a resistant myth. Claiming truthfulness and authenticity, documentaries have a huge impact on how we understand the world around us, and what we believe to be real.
In the seminar we will discuss representations of animals and human-animal relationships in documentaries including BBC's Blue-Chip documentaries, the Australian series The Crocodile Hunter, Disney's African Cats, the first environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth, and more recent documentaries such as Blackfish and My Octopus Teacher. By the end of the seminar, students will be familiar with concepts and approaches from critical animal studies as well as documentary studies; they will be able to analyse and evaluate representations of animals on visual media in general, and documentaries in particular.