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TYPES OF
DOCUMENTARY
FULLY NARRATED
The “Fully Narrated” subgenre is a very traditional form
of documentary which is known for it’s use of “Voice of
God” narration as a key feature to carry and develop the
plot lines of the film; it is also used to explain the visuals
that go along with it. This type of commentary can be
very influential, meaning the audience will often believe
what the narrator is saying, even if it is not entirely true.
This subgenre is usually associated with wildlife and
historical documentaries to provide the audience with the
factual information that gives a sense of realism and
truth. An example of this is the BBC nature documentary
series, Frozen Planet.
FLY-ON-THE-WALL
This type of documentary, also known as
“Observational”, uses “Cinéma Vérité”; a style inspired
by Robert Flaherty’s films, which combines improvisation
with the use of camera to unveil truth and give a sense
of verisimilitude. It achieves this by capturing a
seemingly natural setting which is unaffected by the
filmmakers. However with the use of mise en scene and
subtle editing to create realism, what the audience is
shown can be manipulated to convey a certain
impression or opinion.
There is little commentary in this type of documentary,
as it attempts to remain somewhat objective and during
interviews we do not hear questions; we are shown
“talking heads” which tell all in apparent “real time”. An
example of this is the award-winning 2012 documentary
MIXED
A mixed documentary uses a combination of features
such as observation and voiceover commentary, to create
and project an argument onto the audience. This form
uses interviews with journalists and experts, whose
voices are often played over visuals and images to
advance the argument. The filmmakers link these aspects
together to construct narrative and sometimes uses
archive materials when relating to a certain event or
issue. Modern documentaries are commonly mixed for
example Bruno Mars’ Coming Home documentary.
SELF REFLEXIVE
The subject of this style of documentary, usually the film
maker, acknowledges the camera and purposely talks to
it as if they are directly talking to the audience to provide
narrative. This has been criticised as it focuses more on
the documentary maker than the content or issue of the
film.
The film maker of the reflexive style is often unsure of
the outcome of the documentary and can be associated
with experimental documentary film makers; where the
viewer is just as interested about how the film is
constructed as they are the actual subject matter. For
example Louis Theroux, a British journalist and
broadcaster, is known for his controversial method of
reflective film making.
DOCUDRAMA
A docudrama uses re-enactment and reconstruction of
real life events often combined with fictional narrative.
Although docudramas claim to reveal fact, critics have
said that “they can only deliver a shaped version of the
truth” as it unlikely that the film makers know exactly
what it was like at the event. They can also be
misleading and dangerous as the audience can take
them to be truthful. Nevertheless docudramas usually
take their information from eyewitnesses and experts to
increase accuracy of the film,
An example of this form of documentary is the 1996 TV
film, Hillsborough, starring Christopher Eccleston and
Ricky Tomlinson, telling the story of the Hillsborough
Disaster.
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typesofdocumentary-140704152339-phpapp01.pdf

  • 2. FULLY NARRATED The “Fully Narrated” subgenre is a very traditional form of documentary which is known for it’s use of “Voice of God” narration as a key feature to carry and develop the plot lines of the film; it is also used to explain the visuals that go along with it. This type of commentary can be very influential, meaning the audience will often believe what the narrator is saying, even if it is not entirely true. This subgenre is usually associated with wildlife and historical documentaries to provide the audience with the factual information that gives a sense of realism and truth. An example of this is the BBC nature documentary series, Frozen Planet.
  • 3. FLY-ON-THE-WALL This type of documentary, also known as “Observational”, uses “Cinéma Vérité”; a style inspired by Robert Flaherty’s films, which combines improvisation with the use of camera to unveil truth and give a sense of verisimilitude. It achieves this by capturing a seemingly natural setting which is unaffected by the filmmakers. However with the use of mise en scene and subtle editing to create realism, what the audience is shown can be manipulated to convey a certain impression or opinion. There is little commentary in this type of documentary, as it attempts to remain somewhat objective and during interviews we do not hear questions; we are shown “talking heads” which tell all in apparent “real time”. An example of this is the award-winning 2012 documentary
  • 4. MIXED A mixed documentary uses a combination of features such as observation and voiceover commentary, to create and project an argument onto the audience. This form uses interviews with journalists and experts, whose voices are often played over visuals and images to advance the argument. The filmmakers link these aspects together to construct narrative and sometimes uses archive materials when relating to a certain event or issue. Modern documentaries are commonly mixed for example Bruno Mars’ Coming Home documentary.
  • 5. SELF REFLEXIVE The subject of this style of documentary, usually the film maker, acknowledges the camera and purposely talks to it as if they are directly talking to the audience to provide narrative. This has been criticised as it focuses more on the documentary maker than the content or issue of the film. The film maker of the reflexive style is often unsure of the outcome of the documentary and can be associated with experimental documentary film makers; where the viewer is just as interested about how the film is constructed as they are the actual subject matter. For example Louis Theroux, a British journalist and broadcaster, is known for his controversial method of reflective film making.
  • 6. DOCUDRAMA A docudrama uses re-enactment and reconstruction of real life events often combined with fictional narrative. Although docudramas claim to reveal fact, critics have said that “they can only deliver a shaped version of the truth” as it unlikely that the film makers know exactly what it was like at the event. They can also be misleading and dangerous as the audience can take them to be truthful. Nevertheless docudramas usually take their information from eyewitnesses and experts to increase accuracy of the film, An example of this form of documentary is the 1996 TV film, Hillsborough, starring Christopher Eccleston and Ricky Tomlinson, telling the story of the Hillsborough Disaster.
  • 7. DOCUFICTION Docufiction, as it’s name suggests, combines documentary with fiction; it attempts to capture reality such as it is, often through the use of “Cinéma Vérité”, however also introducing unreal elements or fictional situations in the narrative. Much like a docudrama, docufiction uses reconstruction to give the impression of the truth. However whereas the docudrama is usually based on real life events, a docufiction can be entirely fictional. An example of this is the popular 2012 documentary aired on Animal Planet, Mermaids: The Body Found.
  • 8. DOCUSOAP A docusoap is a type of documentary that follows a group of people in a particular occupation or location over a period of time. This type of documentary is usually linked with Reality TV to create shows that attempt to mimic the soap opera style, for example Made in Chelsea and The Only Way is Essex. There has been lots of dispute over whether a docusoap is actually a type of documentary or not, however this subgenre is very popular with both audience and documentary makers and are fairly cheap to create, Examples of this are: My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and One Born Every Minute.
  • 9. MOCKUMENTARY A mockumentary is a subgenre of documentary in which fictional events are presented in the style of documentary to mock or create a parody. These are often used to comment on current events or issues however by using a completely fictional setting and narrative. Comedic mockumentaries are the most common form of this style. Come Fly With Me is a popular British mockumentary television series, that uses documentary features, such as talking heads, voice of God and fly-on-the-wall observation. It is a spoof series based on the British documentaries Airline and Airport.
  • 10. DISNEYFICATION Steven Barnett’s theory of “Disneyfication” looked at the need for television companies to broadcast things that receive the highest ratings possible instead of more deeper and more serious documentaries. He said that documentaries have been 'dumbed down' for audiences as this is what people have become accustomed to. There are claims that this shows television being 'cheap' and being more concerned about obtaining high 'ratings' instead showing useful or more intellectual documentaries.