Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Chown, Jeffrey

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Communication Studies


Documentary films--History and criticism


Techniques in film that call attention to the mediated nature of the filmmaking process have become prevalent in the documentary film genre. Increasing awareness on the part of documentary filmmakers and critics about the impact these self-reflexive techniques have on audience interpretation reflects an attempt to make the documentary genre more "truthful," "real," or "scientifically sound." This study examines the presence and absence of selfreflexive techniques in documentary film by applying methods used in rhetorical criticism to two documentaries: Frederick Wiseman's Missile and Ira Wohl's Best Boy. The effects of these techniques on viewer interpretation and message deconstruction are evaluated by comparing the results of the criticisms. The issues encountered in the study are comparable to issues encountered in anthropology, particularly in ethnographic film studies, and concern the scientific accuracy, verifiability, and nature of reality. By examining the theoretical assumptions and evolution of the ethnographic film genre, a clearer understanding of the nature of the problems and issues surrounding self-reflexivity in documentary film is achieved. These issues that parallel one another across the fields of rhetoric, communication theory, and anthropology reflect not only common problems but common ground for solutions to these issues through the redefinition of knowledge and communication.


Includes bibliographical references (pages 123-135)


iv, 135 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type