Documentaries as a propaganda tool – the beginnings

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by sonal radia-tyagi on Friday, September 15, 2017

Interactive Media & Cinema

Session type

Technical level


To understand how, in the audio visual space, manipulation occurs, even in presenting so called ‘factual information’.


Frank Stern in an article on ” Screening Politics: Cinema and Intervention” writes
“Films are effective propaganda tools because they establish visual icons of historical reality and consciousness, define public attitudes of the time they’re depicting or that at which they were filmed, mobilize people for a common cause, or bring attention to an unknown cause. Political and historical films represent, influence, and create historical consciousness and are able to distort events making it a persuasive and possibly untrustworthy medium.” The lecture would explore 3 films from 1935 to 1945 - this was before, during and towards the end of the Second World War. These films - ‘Triumph of the Will’, ‘London can take it’ and ‘Diary for Timothy’ have shaped much of contemporary imagery, even down to ‘The Lion King’.
This Semester and for some semesters past, I have taught non- fiction to young students at both the undergraduate and post-graduate level. These are students who are not particularly interested in ‘old documentaries’, so I learnt to develop sessions that keep them interested by making the films relevant to them. If I were to present a lecture at the Goa project these are the methods I would use – make the subject interesting by making it relevant.


An open mind.

Speaker bio

I am an FTII alumna and have worked as a filmmaker and television producer for over 28 years, of which 17 were in East Africa. I have worked mainly in non-fiction, have directed television stories for CNN’s ‘Inside Africa’ and Reuters’ ‘Africa Journal’, documentaries for UNESCO, UNHCR, IFAW, AKES, AKUH, AKDN and Unilever Kenya.
I returned to India in 2013 and made the transition to academics, I currently teach at Symbiosis in Pune.

I have discovered doumentaries to be a powerful tool, but very underestimated; ‘film’ to most people, means fiction feature films. I enjoy the process of getting people enthused about non-fiction.