Monday, 4 April 2011

What is Documentary

Documentary is a non-fiction genre. The footage that has been shot should represent actuality and should present some facts about a subject. As stated by Paul Wells (1996, p. 169) John Grierson came up with the aforementioned term to produce a visual ‘document’ of a particular event. Vaughan (1999, p.58) has stated:

A crucial fact about the definition of documentary as a mode of response is that it places the attribution of documentary significance squarely within the province of the viewer

According to Bill Nichols (1991) in the book Representing reality, there are four modes of representation these are, expository, observational, interactive and reflexive.

The expository is a documentary where the narrator tells us about what we are viewing. Observational are fly on the wall style programs which include the very popular reality TV shows. Interactive are documentaries that require the need for discussion with people either as individuals or within a group bringing about debate. The last is reflexive, this is an experimental form of film where the crew may become participants within the documentary there is no attempt to hide how the program is made.

Documentary film is a form that there has been much debate about and also has raised many contradictions. Many arguments have been about whether the form can represent actuality accurately or becomes a biased view of the maker. As Vaughan has said, the acknowledgment of the documentary genre lies directly with the viewer.

Paul Ward (2005, p.7) says that ‘All documentary films are nonfictional, but not all nonfictional films are documentaries’.

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