Friday, January 26, 2007

Teaching sociology: Documentaries for criminology


As a follow-up to a comment in yesterday's post, here are some of the documentaries that I use in my criminology class. I either rent them from netflix.com or buy them from half.com (which is surprisingly cheap). I show about 30-45 minutes of these & have students write essays analyzing them from various theoretical perspectives. I pick films that illustrate crime in different social contexts.

Brother's Keeper. The story of four brothers in a rural setting, and one may have killed another. I use to illustrate the ambiguity associated with crime & different definitions of crime.

Bus 174. An engaging documentary about a failed bus hijack in Brazil. I use it to get the students thinking about crime outside the U.S.. It would also serve well regarding issues of poverty and crime.

Capturing the Friedmans. A remarkably disturbing story of alleged child-molesters in a wealthy Long Island suburb. Gets at the social construction of crime & how different ways of measuring crime (official, self-report, victim) would give very different results in some situations.

Devil's Playground. One my favorite films. Amish kids, when 16, often step away from the church to live life on their own, before deciding whether to rejoin. During this time some of them get into various crime and deviance. I have students analyze it from a social control perspective.

Lost Children of Rockdale. The story of teens in rich Atlanta-area who go crazy with sex and drugs. Nice illustration of social learning theory.

Murder on a Sunday Morning. Amazing story of a wrongful arrest of an African-American kid for a murder. I have students analyze it for the question of whether the criminal justice system is racist.

Stevie. A heartbreaking story of a poor kid growing up in Indiana with lots of various emotional problems, and he ends up in jail. Filmed by the guy who made hoop-dreams. Wonderful illustration of psychological theories of crime.

Streetwise. A documentary about street kids in Seattle in the early 1980s. It's about their day-t0-day lives, which include lots of crime--prostitution, robbery, drugs. I use to get at social disorganization theory.

The Iceman. An extended interview with Richard Kuklinski, a quiet family man who was also a ruthless hitman. Great illustration of rational choice theory.

The Smartest Guys in the Room. The story of Enron. Nice counter intuitive illustration of strain theory--why did these guys, who have everything, do it?

Weather Underground. The story of the 1960s & 70s student left. Makes for a good example of conflict theory, and my students are always amazed at how radical college students were back then.

For other essays on teaching sociology: www.brewright.com/teaching/essays.html
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3 comments:

gary said...

Thanks for posting this. I've seen several of these, and didn't think of using them in class before. I have thought about Angels with Dirty Faces for life-course theory, and episodes from The Wire could apply to lots of different theories.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much, for class I have to analyze a documentary and this really really helped.

Documentaries said...

Good job posting these documentaries , ill put them on my website , for people to watch them online .