As a type of film or television develops, filmmakers and directors find certain techniques that become useful or effective in creating texts. These techniques get used again and again, and eventually they are associated with and are used to define certain types of texts. The techniques then become known as conventions. Documentary has its fair… Read More Documentary Conventions
The word “documentary” defies easy definition. Here are some versions from various reference guides and textbooks: “Documentary concerns itself with representing the observable world, and to this end works with what [John] Grierson called the raw material of reality. The documentarian draws on past and present actuality — the world of social and historical experience… Read More Definitions of Documentary
In “Toward a Poetics of Documentary,” Michael Renov outlines four tendencies of documentary. He places these tendencies within theories of poetics in order to show that they are products of historical, cultural, and technological contexts. As a result, these tendencies serve as a way to see how to widen the gap between the image and… Read More The Four Fundamental Tendencies of Documentary
Documentary theorist Bill Nichols outlines four groups that define a documentary: “An institutional framework” “A community of practitioners” “A corpus of texts” “A constituency of viewers” An Institutional Framework Institutional frameworks refer to anyone involved in the distribution and support of documentary. They can be divided into two sub-groups. 1. The first group includes those… Read More Who Defines a Documentary?
In his book Documentary Film Paul Rotha indentifies four documentary traditions: The Naturalist (Romantic) Tradition This tradition draws on the observation of life being lived in its own natural environment. It involves the filmmaker learning about that life and its customs, much as an ethnographer does while in the field. But this tradition is more… Read More Rotha’s Documentary Traditions
In every film class I teach, I show at least one documentary. Titles I have shown include Roger & Me, The Thin Blue Line, and Hearts and Minds. Each semester I ask students what they think or know in general about documentaries. There are two running themes to the responses. One is that documentaries are… Read More Critical Questions for Viewing Documentaries