Documentary Film

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					Documentary Film

What is a Documentary?

           tell stories about real
 Films that
 events and real people using, for
 the most part, actual images and
What is a Documentary?

 They record what is currently
  happening in the world or explore what
  has taken place.
 They introduce viewers to ideas,
  people, and experiences that otherwise
  might not have encountered or
  challenge them to question what they
  already know.
What is a Documentary?

   Like fiction films, documentaries can be
    funny, moving, disturbing, thought-
    provoking, or entertaining.
1st Documentaries

        1895 – French Inventor Louis Lumiere
         developed a lightweight, hand-cranked
         camera that allowed him to tape daily

      Ex: Feeding the Baby, Leaving the Factory,
       and Arrival of a Train at the Station.
      These filmings are known as “actualities.”

      Lumiere’s early works lead to modern cinema.
1st Documentaries

  Actualities were extremely popular,
   new, and thrilling to audiences in the
  Watching Arrival of a Train at the
   Station made spectators scream and
   dodge as the film train moved from long
   shot to close-up, looking as if it would
   burst through the screen.
        Distinguishing a
     Documentary’s Approach
Objective Documentaries
- Known as “Direct Cinema”
- Attempt to record events objectively w/o
manipulation or direction.
- The camera records life as it unfolds in
real time.
- Questions are not posed on screen, usually
there is no narration, and often subjects do
not know of the filmmaker’s presence
        Distinguishing a
     Documentary’s Approach
Subjective Documentaries
- Also known as opinionated documentaries
- A distinct point of view is presented by the
- Often the filmmaker narrates and
participates either as a voice behind the
camera or appearing as a character in front
of the camera.
        Distinguishing a
     Documentary’s Approach
Some documentaries use a combination of both
objective and subjective approaches.
  Structure of a Documentary
A documentary can be arranged
chronologically OR it can move back and
forth in time, if doing so is the best way to
make a point or illustrate a theme.

 Though documentaries are intended to be “real,”
  filmmakers have been known to fake scenes when
  real footage was not compelling or did not exist.
 Ex: Documentary – Nanook of the North – was
  the first full length documentary about a group of
  Inuts living on the coast of the Hudson Bay near
  the Arctic Circle.
 Much of the documentary was restaged traditional
  activities of the Inut people, like whale hunting.
Documentary Categories

   Dramatize issues and their
    implications for society; contribute
    to political debate
   Political documentaries walk a fine
    line between advocacy and
   Ex: Fahrenheit 9/11;
    The Collector of Bedford Street
Documentary Categories

   Explore a past event or period of time or
    the life of someone who lived in the past
   Archival photos, letters, and face-to-face
    interviews with historians and scholars
    are some of the sources historical
    documentarians draw on.
   Ex: 4 Little Girls
Documentary Category

Situational/Cultural/Natural World
   Help audience understand the world they
    live in.
   Ex: Discovery Channel, Travel Channel,

What categories do the documentaries
 you’ve seen fit?
        Making a Documentary

 Documentaries employ many of the same
 devices as fiction films to hold attention.
  –   Story
  –   Point of view
  –   Structure
  –   Cinematography
  –   Editing
  –   Music
         Making a Documentary

 All documentaries require a strong story
  and must have structure.
  –   Beginning
  –   Middle
  –   End
  –   Compelling characters
  –   Emotional impact
  –   Not always a happy ending
       Making a Documentary

 Narration – off-camera commentary- is used
  to voice letters and other written material
 To join together visual images and
 To provide transitions between scenes or to
  set the stage for a scene
 To indicate re-enactments
 Narration is generally written after the film
  is completed to ensure the words and
  pictures work together.
Information provided by YMI – Young Minds Inspired – in
  cooperation with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and

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