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Sociology 5 Pages

Sociology Analysis Of American Documentary Film, Life And Debt (2003)


Watch a film from the list below. Write a providing a sociological analysis of the film, including relevant concepts, themes, and topics from class. The paper should be no more than 1/3 description of the film. The following questions may help with your analysis:

  • What is the political issue represented in the documentary?
  • What is the role of power in the development of the problem and identified solutions?
  • Which sociological theories or concepts are relevant? How?
  • Which sociological theory is useful in explaining what happens in the course of the film? How? 
  •  Which concepts are represented in the film?
  • If there is a weakness in one of the theories or concepts, what would you suggest to overcome that weakness? Support this suggestion with an example from the film. 

Film List

Karl Rove – The Architect (60 min., PBS Frontline, 2005).  After surviving one of the roughest presidential elections in modern times, President George W. Bush singled out one member of his team in particular, calling Karl Rove the campaign's "architect." But Rove, a longtime Bush adviser and confidant, is much more than a political guru, he is also the single most powerful -- and ambitious -- policy adviser in the White House.

Life and Debt (1 hr., 26 min., New Yorker Video, 2003).  Jamaica became an independent country from Great Britain in 1962. It is the land of sea, sand, and sun ... but it is also a prime example of the complexities of economic globalization on the world's developing countries. Portrays the relationship between Jamaican poverty and the practices of international lending agencies while driving home the consequences of globalization.

Matewan (2 hr., 15 min., Cinecom Pictures, 1987).  A labor union organizer comes to an embattled mining community brutally and violently dominated and harassed by the mining company

Milk (2 hr, 9 min. Focus Features LLC, 2008).  This film follows the life Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to major public office.

News War (4 hr. 30 min. PBS Frontline, 2007).  In a four-part special series, News War, FRONTLINE examines the political, cultural, legal, and economic forces challenging the news media today and how the press has reacted in turn. Through interviews with key figures in print, broadcast, and electronic media over the past four decades—and with unequaled, behind-the-scenes access to some of today's most important news organizations, FRONTLINE traces the recent history of American journalism, from the Nixon administration's attacks on the media to the post-Watergate popularity of the press, to the new challenges presented by the war on terror and other global forces now changing -- and challenging -- the role of the press in our society.

Obama’s Deal (56 min. 46 sec. PBS Frontline, 2010).  In Obama's Deal, veteran FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk takes viewers behind the headlines to reveal the political maneuvering behind Barack Obama's effort to remake the American health system and transform the way Washington works. Through interviews with administration officials, senators, and Washington lobbyists, Obama's Deal reveals the dramatic details of how an idealistic president pursued the health care fight—despite the warnings of many of his closest advisers—and how he ended up making deals with many of the powerful special interests he had campaigned against.

On Our Watch (60 min., PBS Frontline, 2007).  The world vowed “never again” after the genocide in Rwanda and the atrocities in Srebrenica, Bosnia. Then came Darfur. Over the past four years, at least 200,000 people have been killed, 2.5 million driven from their homes, and mass rapes have been used as a weapon in a brutal campaign - supported by the Sudanese government - against civilians in Darfur. In On Our Watch, FRONTLINE asks why the United Nations and its members once again failed to stop the slaughter.

Poisoned Waters (1 hr. 56 min. 44 sec. PBS Frontline, 2009).  More than three decades after the Clean Water Act, iconic American waterways like the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound are in perilous condition and facing new sources of contamination. 

Right America (44 min., HBO Video, 2009).  Emmy-winning HBO documentary filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi delivers a snapshot of some of the more vocal conservative Americans, who saw their hopes and dreams evaporate in the wake of a decisive Democratic victory for Barack Obama. Many of them say they feel so alienated over cultural and political issues that they will never trust the new president, the Congress, or the media. On the day Barack Obama was elected President, more than 58 million voters cast their ballots for Senator John McCain. In the months leading up to this historic election, filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi took a road trip to meet a cross-section of conservative voters in 28 states who share their feelings about the changing America in which they live.

Sick Around America (54 min. 15 sec. PBS Frontline, 2009).  As the worsening economy leads to massive job losses—potentially forcing millions more Americans to go without health insurance—FRONTLINE travels the country examining the nation's broken health care system and explores the need for a fundamental overhaul. Veteran FRONTLINE producer Jon Palfreman dissects the private insurance system, a system that not only fails to cover 46 million Americans but also leaves millions more underinsured and at risk of bankruptcy.

Spying on the Home Front (60 min. PBS Frontline, 2007).  9/11 has indelibly altered America in ways that people are now starting to earnestly question: not only perpetual orange alerts, barricades and body frisks at the airport, but greater government scrutiny of people's records and electronic surveillance of their communications. The watershed, officials tell FRONTLINE, was the government's shift after 9/11 to a strategy of pre-emption at home -- not just prosecuting terrorists for breaking the law, but trying to find and stop them before they strike.

The Card Game (56 min. 23 sec., PBS Frontline, 2009). As credit card companies face rising public anger, new regulation from Washington and staggering new rates of default and bankruptcy, FRONTLINE correspondent Lowell Bergman investigates the future of the massive consumer loan industry and its impact on a fragile national economy.  In The Card Game, a follow-up to the Secret History of the Credit Card and a joint project with The New York Times, Bergman and the Times talk to industry insiders, lobbyists, politicians, and consumer advocates as they square off over attempts to reform the way the industry has done business for decades.

The Choice 2008 (1 hr. 55 min. 47 sec., PBS Frontline, 2008).  It has been called one of the most historic presidential elections in our nation's history – Barack Obama versus John McCain. It is a race that pits the iconoclast against the newcomer, the heroic prisoner of war against the first African American nominated by a major party. FRONTLINE's critically acclaimed series The Choice returns to this election season to examine the rich personal and political biographies of these two men in The Choice 2008.

The Corporation (2 hr. 25 min. Zeitgeist Films, 2004).  In this acclaimed documentary from co-director of Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, 40 corporate insiders and critics explore the nature and spectacular rise of the most pervasive institution of our time.

The Hugo Chavez Show (1 hr. 24 min. 37 sec. PBS Frontline, 2008).  He’s been portrayed as a savior and an autocrat; a hero to his nation’s poor; and a bombastic, would-be dictator eager to dominate the world stage.  He forges controversial alliances while inventing a new kind of revolution he calls 21st-century socialism.  He calls George Bush a devil and Castro a god.  Who is this man Hugo Chavez, and where is he headed?

The New Asylum (60 min. PBS Frontline, 2005).  Fewer than 55,000 Americans currently receive treatment in psychiatric hospitals. Meanwhile, almost 10 times that number -- nearly 500,000 -- mentally ill men and women are serving time in U.S. jails and prisons. As sheriffs and prison wardens become the unexpected and often ill-equipped caretakers of this burgeoning population, they raise a troubling new concern: Have America's jails and prisons become its new asylums?

The Persuaders (1 hr. 30 min. PBS Frontline, 2004).  Americans are swimming in a sea of messages.  Each year, legions of ad people, copywriters, market researchers, pollsters, consultants, and even linguists—most of whom work for one of six giant companies—spend billions of dollars and millions of man-hours trying to determine how to persuade consumers what to buy, whom to trust, and what to think. Increasingly, these techniques are migrating to the high-stakes arena of politics, shaping policy and influencing how Americans choose their leaders.

The Warning (55 min. 16 sec. PBS Frontline, 2009).  "We didn't truly know the dangers of the market, because it was a dark market," says Brooksley Born, the head of an obscure federal regulatory agency—the Commodity Futures Trading Commission [CFTC] —who not only warned of the potential for economic meltdown in the late 1990s, but also tried to convince the country's key economic powerbrokers to take actions that could have helped avert the crisis. "They were totally opposed to it," Born says. "That puzzled me. What was it that was in this market that had to be hidden?"

The Weather Underground (1 hr., 32 min., Free History Project, 2002).  This video follows the remarkable story of The Weather Underground, radical activists of the 1970s, and of radical politics at its best and most disastrous.

The Yes Men (1 hr., 20 min., MGM, 2005).  The Yes Men, a movie, follows a couple of anti-corporate activist-pranksters as they impersonate World Trade Organization spokesmen on TV and at business conferences around the world.

War Made Easy (1 hr., 23 min., 2007).  Analysis of how governments bent on war-making have relied on a vast arsenal of propaganda techniques to overcome resistance at home and disapproval abroad. Moving from Vietnam to Iraq, the film examines how news reports have become nearly indistinguishable from White House and Pentagon talking points, a problem that has become exacerbated by journalists who have grown accustomed to being fed information by official sources

When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (4 disc set, 4 hr. HBO Documentaries, 2006).  One year after Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans, director Spike Lee presents a four-hour, four-part chronicle recounting, through words and images, one of our country's most profound natural disasters. In addition to revisiting the hours leading up to the arrival of Katrina, a category 5 hurricane, before it hit the coast of Louisiana, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts tells the personal stories of those who lived to tell about it, at the same time exploring the underbelly of a nation where the divide along race and class lines has never been more pronounced.

Why We Fight (1 hr., 38 min., Sony Pictures Classics, 2005).  Why We Fight, a new film by Eugene Jarecki, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, is an unflinching look at the anatomy of the American war machine, weaving unforgettable personal stories with commentary by a “who’s who” of military and beltway insiders.


Title: Sociology Analysis Of American Documentary Film, Life And Debt (2003)
Length: 5 pages (1395 Words)
Style: MLA


Life and Debt 

Stephanie Black directed the American documentary film, Life and Debt (2003). It is a story about the economic and social situation in Jamaica. It majorly depicts the implications of IMF and the World Bank's globalization policies. From the name, the film shows how Jamaica was given "Life", in the form of loans which were conditional on structural adjustment policies where Jamaica was required to enact economic reforms such as privatization, deregulation, and trade liberalization. The "Debt" comes in when the proposed changes fail to leave Jamaica with $4.6 billion in debt.


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