Documentary Discussion Questions
American Roots FYS
Dr. Rachel Hall
Here are some things I’d like you to think about while you watch your documentary. The films I chose are quite different from each other, so not every question will be appropriate for you.
1. I’ll ask each person or group to briefly summarize his or her documentary in class. Please prepare a short statement to inform your classmates what the film was about and whether you think it would be useful for a research project in roots music (and if so, what kind of music).
2. Rate your documentary on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest:
3. “Identity” is one of the themes of this class. How do the characters in your documentaries identify themselves: as citizens of a country, residents of a city or geographic region, members of an ethnic group, or as people of a particular age? Is their music “native” to their upbringing, or do they adopt musical styles of another group? Do any of the people seem to be trying to change their identities through music? Is “musician” an identity?
4. “Authenticity” is another theme of the class. Is the music in your documentary “authentic” in the sense that it is true to its musical roots? Is it “authentic” in the more general sense of being heartfelt or sincere? Are there any performers who come across as being fake or phony?
5. In your documentary, does music bring people of different backgrounds together, or does it keep them apart?
6. Does your documentary have a narrator? If so, is he or she an impersonal voice, or some particular person? Does the narrator interject himself or herself into the film? Does the narrator tell you what to think, or are the viewers left to draw their own conclusions? Did you appreciate the narrator’s point of view?
7. What questions did this film raise about music? About art? About humanity?
8. Could you relate to any of the people in the movie? Who and in what way?