Documentaries Viewed Through a Psychoanalytic Lens

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Organised by:

Toronto Psychoanalytic Society & Institute

27 September 2023 - 28 February 2024

Time: 19:30 - 21:00

Price: $240

Location: online


Extension COURSE ONE – Documentaries Viewed Through a Psychoanalytic Lens

Course Coordinators: Karen Dougherty, RP, FIPA and Steven Silver, TIP Candidate

Wednesdays, 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm: September 27, October 25, 2023; January 17, February 28, 2024. (4 sessions)

Fee: $240

Preregistration is required. Please register online

** DISTANCE PARTICIPATION ONLY – This course will be conducted online.

This four-evening course is offered for those who are interested in a psychoanalytically informed approach to documentary filmmaking through the lens of iconic point-of-view films about family dynamics.

Participants will have the opportunity to screen the films in advance of the class. The Course instructors, Karen Dougherty and Steven Silver, will co-present each evening with a documentary writer, producer, director, director of photography, or editor. Group participation will be encouraged. All films are available to be screened online at no charge (in Canada). Links will be provided to all registrants and it is expected that participants will have screened each documentary in advance of the class.

September 27: A Married Couple (d. Allan King, 1969, Canada)
The Oedipal Triangle & the Camera as Psychoanalyst
Discussant: Award-winning Documentary Editor Nick Hector worked with Allan King on many of King’s films. King is one of Canada’s pre-eminent documentary filmmakers. He was known for cinema-verité approach to film-making and likened the documentary camera to the role played by a psychoanalyst. King’s films had an uncanny ability to capture family dynamics—and the unconscious—on film.

October 25: Grey Gardens (d. The Maysles Brothers, 1975, U.S.)
A Mother-Daughter Dance
Discussant: Toronto filmmaker and ATPPP graduate Barri Cohen B.A. (psych)., M.A. Counsellor, will lead the evening’s talk about the 1975 cult classic Grey Gardens. In the film, the Maysles Brothers’ unobtrusive camera follows the reclusive “Big” Edie Beale and her daughter “Little” Edie as they bicker, sing, and dance in their crumbling New England mansion. Barri is no stranger to POV documentaries about mothers and daughters: her 2007 NFB film Toxic Trespass reveals the impact of environmental toxins through the story of her own 10-year-old daughter’s health struggles.

January 17: Hoop Dreams (d. Steve James, 1994, U.S.)
Single Mothers, Fatherless Sons
Discussant: Director TBA will break down this Oscar-winning documentary shot over five years about two African-American high school students and their dreams of becoming professional basketball players. It’s also the story of single mothers and fatherless sons.

February 28: Gerrie and Louise (d. Sturla Gunnarson, 1997, Canada)
Couples in Conflict: Star-Crossed Lovers
Discussant: Steven Silver, filmmaker, and TIP analytic candidate, co-wrote and co-produced this award-winning documentary examining post-apartheid South Africa. Steven will discuss his experience telling the unforgettable story of the unusual marriage between Gerrie Hugo, a former officer in the South African Defence Force, and his wife, Louise Flanagan, a journalist investigating the SADF’s controversial role during the apartheid era.

Learning Objectives:

By the end of the course, participants will be able to:

  • Define and recognize the history, cultural importance and unique impact of point-of-view, verité documentary;
  • More fully appreciate the ethical, emotional, technical, and artistic challenges inherent in documentary filmmaking, especially in relation to personal, familial, and trauma-related subjects;
  • Understand basic film theory as related to documentary;
  • Learn about family constellations from a psychoanalytic perspective;
  • Relate psychoanalytic concepts to documentary films and more broadly narrative story-telling


Karen Dougherty, MA, RP (CRPO), FIPA
Karen Dougherty is a Registered Psychotherapist and Psychoanalyst in private practice in Amaranth, Ontario. She is also a documentary filmmaker, a former producer in TVOntario’s Documentary Unit, and a mental health consultant for film and television. She teaches at the ATPPP, the FPP, the Extension Program of the TPS, and at the Documentary Institute at Seneca College.

Steven Silver, Filmmaker, TIP Candidate
Steven Silver, TIP Candidate, is a South African-Canadian entrepreneur, media executive, investor and a producer/director of film and television. Steven’s documentaries have won many awards including an International Emmy. Steven runs a private psychoanalytic psychotherapy practice in Toronto.

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