Style of documentary produced in 1960s.
Came about as result of widespread availability of cheap, portable lightweight
Aimed at objectivity: no narrator, simply fly-on-the-wall filming of events and
people, leaving it up to the audience to draw conclusions.
Approach is in direct contrast to the tradition of the ‘Authored
Documentary’, which is clearly the opinion of an individual.
Rules of Direct cinema:
Documentaries were not to include interviews
There were to be no rehearsals prior to filming
No staged events or commentary
No film lights
No dissolve edits to be used
Style of European film-making in the early 1960s using documentary
techniques such as hand-held camera to convey life in as realistic a way as
Similar to direct cinema but CV believed that the film makers opinions
should be expressed – art as propaganda. CV also used interviews whereas
Linked to ‘Social Realist’ tradition in fiction film
Use direct cinema techniques to give a fly-on-the-wall insight to the day-to-
day workings of hospitals, airports.
Popular genre which is often informative, humorous and sometimes critical
in the way in which these places of work are represented. Have given way
to the popular docusoap genre in recent years.
Take ordinary, common experience and look at it through the eyes of the
public. Are called docu-soaps because they are similar to soap operas in terms
Part of a series and often end on a cliffhanger ‘next week on…..’
Are very popular: ‘The Cruise’ averaged 11 million viewers, ‘Driving School’
peaked at 12.45 million viewers. Common characteristics are:
Emphasis on entertainment rather than instruction
Based around personalities who often ‘play up’ to the camera, and talk directly
to camera. They often become celebrities themselves eg Jeremy Spake in
‘Airport’ Prominent, guiding voice-over often by an established actor
Focus on everyday lives and problems rather than underlying social issues
Selective editing: some scenes are known to have been ‘set-up’
Probably the most traditional of documentary formats –
Usually shown by Public Service Broadcasting channels, eg BBC, Channel
4, and normally investigate/explore current affairs issues.
Can often be polemical – drawing attention to a perceived wrong - and can
have significant impact, for example ‘World In Action’ investigation
leading to release of The Birmingham Six.
Again, descended from Direct Cinema – seen by audiences as reliable and
truthful as the subject is filming themselves.
An off-shoot of this are the documentaries which use surveillance
technology as entertainment (infotainment), with audiences enjoying their
voyeuristic nature eg ‘Police, Camera, Action’, ‘Cops With Cameras’
These are documentaries exploring a social issue or drawing attention to a
miscarriage of justice but they are scripted and acted dramas. EG
‘Hillsborough’, ‘Roots’ (1977). Filmed equivalents would be a biog-pic such
Film documentaries released in the cinema.
Is a tradition of cinematic documentaries about pop stars, sport, etc (eg
‘When We Were kings’, ‘In Bed With Madonna’)
New trend for provocative film documentaries, fronted by a charismatic
narrator who appears on screen eg Michael Moore ‘Farenheit
9/11’, ‘Bowling for Columbine’ or Morgan Spurlock ‘Super Size Me’.
These are a return to the concept of the ‘Authored Documentary’, where
the piece is clearly scripted and presented as the viewpoint of a particular
Use the documentary format for comic effect, either:
Parodying the genre
Parodying an area of life