Styles of Documentary


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A2 Media Coursework, different styles of documentary

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  • This is brilliant - succinct and easy to follow; thank you very much for uploading. I have to give an overview of documentary styles to a class of first years BSc students who have to make a short documentary for a class assignment, and the level of information presented here is spot on. :-)
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Styles of Documentary

  1. 1. Style of Documentary Daniel Williams
  2. 2. OriginThe styles of documentary or documentary modes weredeveloped by American theorist Bill Nichols.The concept was created as he wanted to distinguish theparticular traits and different conventions used indocumentaries.The 6 types are: • Poetic • Participatory • Expository • Reflexive • Observational • Performative
  3. 3. Poetic Documentary (subjective, artistic expression) A documentary that has a topic which is personal to the people involved, usually the presenter and interviewees. It emphasizes some aspects of the person’s life and presents these via music, camera shots and angles and the editing. It can also be quite artistic in the way it is presented. Music is key as it develops the mood and tone of the story being told including the messages and values hidden within.Man With A Movie Camera:
  4. 4. Observational Documentary (Fly on the wall) A documentary where the filmmaker is a neutral observer. (from the outside looking in) Life is lived and observed. It can then be seen how people/animals react in different situations. The filmmaker is normally out of shot so they cannot influence what is happening. Nothing is rehearsed or staged, this means the camera crew have to rush around, resulting in poor shaky looking footage. Usually wildlife documentaries. (David Attenborough)Oasis:
  5. 5. Reflexive Documentary (awareness of the process) A documentary where the audience engages with the content of the documentary as it happens, they acknowledge the issues of realism and representation and modality judge them when they arrive. It shows the constructive nature of the documentary showing not necessarily the truth, but a reconstruction. (‘a’ truth, not ‘the’ truth). The audience are made aware of the process throughout and the audience are made aware of the editing, sound and recordings.Human Trafficking:
  6. 6. Expository Documentary (voice of god) Documentaries in this style are usually non-fiction films. There is direct access to the audience. There are social issues assembled into an argumentative frame with a narration voice-over emphasizing what is happening with argumentative logic. A good example of this is An Inconvenient Truth (2006)Full Film:
  7. 7. Participatory Documentary A participatory documentary is where the events and situations presented are influenced and altered by the presence of the filmmaker. A brilliant example of this is Supersize Me (2004) Full Film: eRXuuH9AI
  8. 8. Performative Documentary A performative documentary acknowledges the emotional and subjective aspects of documentary and presents ideas as a part of a context having different meanings for different people and are often autobiographical in nature. Tongues United (1990)