The Conventions of Documentary Film


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The Conventions of Documentary Film

  1. 1. The DOCUMENTARY ©Dianne St. ClairFILM STUDIES
  2. 2. ©Dianne St. Clair What makes a film a DOCUMENTAR Y? A documentary film presents information about factual topics. These films aim to: record important events and ideas; to inform viewers; to convey opinions and to create public interest. Common techniques or conventions are used in documentaries to achieve these aims.
  3. 3. Authentic and true Filmed events are unstaged documentary ©Dianne St. Clair 1 The unstaged nature of events in a documentary suggests that the events have an existence independent of the cinema. This is what gives them their CONVENTIONS OF A ACTUALITY: film footage of real life events, places and people as opposed to fictional films which use actors, scripted stories and artificial sets -a documentary is a flim short story about someone QuickTime™ and a decompressor are needed to see this picture. 1895 French short black and white silent documentary film directed and produced by Louis Lumiere.
  4. 4. ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE ©Dianne St. Clair 2 Stock footage is material obtained from a film library or archive and inserted into a documentary to show historical events or to add detail without the need for additional filming. documentary CONVENTIONS OF A
  5. 5. ©Dianne St. Clair 3Non-fiction Not imaginary documentary 3 CONVENTIONS OF A
  6. 6. ©Dianne St. Clair 4 OBSERVED Filmmaker makes an objective record of events documentary 3 CONVENTIONS OF A
  7. 7. ©Dianne St. Clair 5 Reconstruction artificial scenes of an event which have been reconstructed and acted out on film based on information of the event. • generally provides factual information •gives the viewer a sense of realism It is often indicated that the footage is not real when using techniques such as blurring, distortion, lighting effects, changes in camera level, and color enhancement within the footage documentary CONVENTIONS OF A
  8. 8. ©Dianne St. Clair 6 •people being filmed speak directly about events, prompted by the filmmaker’s questions. •takes place on-screen, or off-screen •give the viewer a sense of realism, that the documentary maker’s views are mutually shared by another person or source, and thus more valid. •Interviews on opposing sides of an issue may be documentary CONVENTIONS OF A Following Christopher Nolan
  9. 9. ©Dianne St. Clair 7 •conveys ideas visually by putting them in a specific order in the film. •Narrative montages - sequence of shots used to indicate changes in time and place •Ideational montages link actions with words •different positioning of shots conveys different ideas to the viewer. • For example, a montage containing a negative theme followed by a positive theme may give the viewer the idea that the positive theme is the main theme of the montage. •usually linked with words that characters say. This visual representation of the characters thoughts helps position the scenes from Asylum - State Hospital Project Documentary Vidal Sassoon, The Movie
  10. 10. TYPES OF DOCUMENTARIES 5 ©Dianne St. Clair In Representing Reality: A Critical Introduction to Documentary (1998), Bill Nichols identifies 5 categories of documentary film: the expository observational interactive reflexive performative documentary
  11. 11. ©Dianne St. Clair • a disembodied and authoritative voiceover commentary • descriptive and informative images • the commentary often called the “voice of God” – an all- knowing narrator imparting knowledge
  12. 12. the OBSERVATIONALdocumentary ©Dianne St. Clair •sometimes called the “fly on the wall” documentary. •presents a “slice of life” or a direct representation of events filmmaker attempts to be invisible, that is, an uninvolved bystander. •no “voice of God,” and no interviews QuickTime™ and a decompressor are needed to see this picture. Grey Gardens
  13. 13. the INTERACTIVE documentary ©Dianne St. Clair • film maker’s presence is prominent • film maker interacts with the people or events in film interactions can be interviews, drawing out specific comments and responses from those who are filmed QuickTime™ and a decompressor are needed to see this picture.
  14. 14. ©Dianne St. Clair •draws attention to how documentaries are created, rather than the actual events Vertov’s The Man with the Movie Camera shows how the film is constructed, we see the lengths the filmmakers goes to to get the camera angles, shots, and footage for the documentary.
  15. 15. PERFORMATIVEdocumentary ©Dianne St. Clair •deflects attention away from the world and towards the expressive dimension of film •subjective, often includes re- enactments of events •The subject matter is presented in a vivid and striking manner •the viewer will question whether events are distorted as a result of the way they are presented.
  16. 16. QuickTime™ and a decompressor are needed to see this picture.