Columbia in the Summer: An Interview with Summer Faculty Joshua Glick

March 24, 2018



Adjunct Assistant Professor Glick, who earned his PhD in Film & Media Studies and American Studies at Yale University and is an Assistant Professor at Hendrix College, recently published his book, Los Angeles Documentary and the Production of Public History (UC Press, 2018). He also served as a curator and produced the award-winning documentary This Side of Dreamland (2016) for the traveling museum exhibition, Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008. He is currently collaborating on the documentary, Last Days at the Duncan, about the contentious transformation of the historic Duncan Hotel in New Haven, Connecticut. His summer course—Contemporary Documentary and Social Movementswill investigate how contemporary documentaries engage with the world at-large by critically examining issues such as race, sexuality, politics, and art, and the powerful ways that contemporary documentaries can shape social consciousness. We interviewed Professor Glick to learn more about his course.

What inspired you to teach this class? 


Contemporary documentary is really at the intersection of my interests in politics, art, social change, and the public humanities. With the alarming rise of reality TV, tabloid entertainment, and debates about “fake news,” there is a pressing need to learn about progressive, powerful, and socially engaged forms of media. Our course offers the opportunity to not simply analyze major films and emerging media projects, but to interact with the individuals and institutions who are currently changing the documentary landscape. Our combination of vibrant seminar discussion and on-site learning throughout NYC makes for a unique course experience.



What makes documentary film a different—and perhaps more powerful—medium for artists and activists to examine social causes? 


Many of the documentaries we explore aim to directly engage a social issue rather than address something indirectly or at a glance. Additionally, documentaries often position individual experiences within a political and cultural context. This allows the films to resonate with viewers on an intimate and emotional level, as well as orient them towards broader events and movements.



What are examples of documentary films that students might watch and discuss in your class this summer? 


We cover so many different styles, modes, and genres of nonfiction. We will look at everything from the interactive, transmedia project Living Los Sures (about gentrification and the changing cultural geography of Brooklyn) to the feature-length Whose Streets (about the Black Lives Matter movement). We will also pair our key case studies with recent news reports, social media posts, and amateur video.



Who are some leading figures that might visit the class? 


Our site visits and guest speakers feature individuals from the commercial, nonprofit, and experimental media sectors; for example, Producer Gabrielle Schonder from Frontline, Executive Artistic Director Christopher Allen from UnionDocs, and Pulitzer-Prize nominated photo-documentarian and journalist Michael Kamber and Bianca Farrow from the Bronx Documentary Center.



Of the 2017 Oscar-nominated feature-length documentaries, which was your favorite and why?


Strong Island is a riveting film. Through the story of one family, we learn about the fraught history of race relations in America. The combination of stylized interviews and the patient presentation of still photographs was incredibly moving.



What do you hope students will gain by taking your course? 


Students will learn how documentary can be used to persuade, advocate, argue, and subtly move people. Students will also become familiar with the contemporary documentary media environment as well as gain knowledge of the major institutions creating, distributing, and exhibiting nonfiction. More broadly, students will learn techniques for analyzing film style and structure, which will make them more critically aware of the media that surround them. For filmmakers, this seminar will help them to find their creative voice and consider the ethics, economics, and social value of making documentaries.


Contemporary Global Documentary
Summer 2020

This course partially satisfies Columbia's Global Core requirement. We will compare different national contexts of contemporary documentary, including projects made for platforms such as Netflix and created within the media industries of Mexico, India, China, Nigeria, Russia, and Israel.


Joshua Glick


Monday, Wednesday, 2:00pm-5:45pm

For more information or questions about this course, Joshua Glick can be reached at or 240-344-7306.