In this task I will be researching and critically analysing the history, development and core areas of documentary. I will be asking questions like: What is a documentary, what do they contain, what is their purpose and why were they made?
I hope to define the difference between one documentary to another and explain why they are special. Therefore I will describe, explain and justify 6 modes of different documentaries to further my knowledge and to understand it’s importance to the history of film. Also I will show evidence of practitioners who helped develop documentary and the key trends that influenced and gave a great need them.
Today a documentary is thought of as information; it is a piece of footage that describes, explains and evaluates on certain issues. We see them everywhere; on the news, on television, adverts and across the internet. It has been a modernised way of communicating across the globe; sharing issues and topics that without travel, people would not be able to bare witness.
It is usually thought of as ‘truthful footage’ because usually you are shown opinions, pressing issues and imagery that the viewer can interact with and be their own decision maker. It is a fortunate piece of art that has given a lot to it’s viewers and has effected things like education, communication, politics and social agendas.
Not all documentary’s are the same but all follow a goal to share a reality with it’s viewers.
Six Modes of Documentary
Describes as ‘the fly on the wall’ technique these sorts of documentaries express reality as usually the camera is left to portrait a surrounding without a false and rehearsed environment. Their purpose is to express realism and to look into the truth of a topic. Programmes like Big Brother is a live televised refuge show that gives truth into the nature of how people live their lives along side each other. They are given tasks which are set up but the performances and are all real. Another example is the footage you see in programmes such like ‘Highway Cops’ where we see into the day to day roles of traffic police. Although the documentary shares another style we get to see live action chases and arrests which is an observation technique.
Poetic documentaries are seen as an artistic format which rely heavily on imagery and music to fulfill a documentary. It’s purpose is to give information ‘freely’ without deeming it to an opinion. It is non personal and purposely contains less dialog. This is because it’s purpose is to be an open display to the audience so that they are free to make their own opinions on what the footage stands for, to them
A good example is many of the nature and travel programmes we watch like Natural World: This is usually shows enough scenes which just produces imagery on the habitats and lives of many creatures across the globe. We are left with the poetic display and left with our own thoughts and feeling which is what this mode try’s to achieve.
This form of documentary requires the efforts of a presenter or film maker to be on the spot to ask questions and find answers. They are responsible for finding the answers to questions and information from their research. It is a more interactive mode as the presenter is constantly engaging between the audience and subjects hoping to find truth in their research. The presenter has a powerful role and therefore we get to know he or she as well as the information from the footage.
A performative piece is where the presenter takes the main role in the documentary. We learn about his or her thoughts and opinions, and is a more of personal piece. It is subjective as we hear what the interviewer has to say rather than a quest to obtain information off from others on a certain subject. This is not to say the piece does not feature a content of information but it is to say that all information is dissected and filtered by the presenter. The Crocodile Hunter featuring Steve Erwin is a good example of this. In his programmes you learn about different species but the information is given from his understanding and out of his interpretation. He is constantly engaged with the viewer and takes on a ‘performative’ role.
A reflexive documentary takes advantage of the elements of documentary because instead of following a subject and showing the truth into the matter they exploit the medium and show a truth. Talk shows who talk on certain topics can be an example where the makers of the programme look into an issue but show it in such away that they have confined it and exposed it as their own opinion to true events.
Like poetic this format relies on imagery to give out the information without the use of a presenter. It is a more open format because it gives room for people to watch and see the truth rather than have it tailor made. A voice over is usually heard to assist what people are seeing in the documentary. Many nature programmes are seen to use this format and most are drawn to the imagery rather than trying to find an opinion or a presenter like other modes.
In documentary we come across a phrase being used this is ‘subjective’. To be subjective is to mean that a persons a opinions or feelings are being expressed on a subject and this means it is not necessary the truth but may be a truth. It means that people will have to contemplate and distinguish between the opinion that they are hearing and choose what they want to believe;- unlike a factual piece that focuses on truth rather than opinion. Subjectivity is a skill used by a presenter or journalist when they have been committed to find expression on a subject. This can be because a company whats it’s employees to explore an opinion because it’s firm has a certain style and personality and this is where being subjective to whole truths and facts can help.
This is where someone goes to explore a topic in a fundamental and truthful matter. It focusses due to a material or external reality rather than the believes of an opinion for feeling. It is a more open format for documentary and can been seen in history programmes where opinions are not necessarily important or available.
Truth to documentary
What ever the skill or effect that a documentary tries to explore there main focus is to capture the reality and truth into a subject. unlike film there topics are not staged and made up but explore something that is really going on. The difference between film and documentary is that documentary is usually live to explore a more truthful matter.
They can raise an issue or impose a message to educate its views and at a time in the UK this was a sole reason to do this.