Publication Date

Spring 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Studies


Anne Marie Todd


documentary, film, music, Rhetorical analysis, social movement rhetoric

Subject Areas

Communication; Rhetoric; Music


Documentary films tell the untold stories and tragedies of the world as well as reflect the filmmakers' ideologies. In this way, they are socially conscious media: they give light to the struggles and problems that exist in society, often giving voice to people who might otherwise be silenced. Documentary films are also rhetorically persuasive in that they help to organize public perception. Documentary scores are part of films' persuasiveness and help audiences to make sense of the documentary footage.

Using a form of rhetorical analysis, this thesis aims to study documentary scores to understand how they mobilize audiences around a particular topic. The way filmmakers craft images, messages, and scores has the ability to impact and reframe public attitudes, thus serving as a powerful communicative tool for social change. Understanding the role of film in promoting social change involves uncovering how and why the content makes the viewer take action. The filmmaker uses certain techniques like close ups and panning as well as different themes that are elicited in the music and images to influence the viewer to accept particular ideologies. These techniques can then be replicated and used in future movements or projects.