Documentary StylesBill Nichols distinguishes 6 different types of documentaries: poetic,expository, observational, participatory, reflexive, and performative.
Poetic Mode-‘Resembling fragments of the world’-Poetic Mode tends towards subjective interpretations of thesubject.-It explores the complex editing within a documentary;juxtaposing and linking images, video clips and music etc.together to effectively attract the audience.-Poetic editing explores “associations and patterns that involvetemporal rhythms and spatial juxtapositions.” (Nichols 2001)-Opens up possibility of alternative forms of knowledge tostraightforward transfer of knowledgeJoris Ivens is an example of documentary film with follows thepoetic mode. This production made in 1929 uses a composition ofunrelated shots to illustrate a rain shower in Amsterdam.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPD2C0K38jYKoyannisqatsi 1982 is an example of a poetic mode documentarywhich illustrates such subjective impressions with little or norhetorical content (known as an avant-garde)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSTTOO5-xSI
Expositional Mode-John Grierson provides an explanation for the moveaway from poetic mode. He states that filmmakers gotcaught up in social propaganda and started focusing onthe social problems of the world.-Expository mode explores documentaries which includefactual information and figures, having interviews to backup the topic also. The documentaries aim to inform theaudience by passing on information.-Narration is also used in these documentaries to supportand explain the documentaries content.-Films, news and television programmes uses this modeto effectively transfer information.An example of this is ‘America’s Most Wanted’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRlUpGijD2kIn this short clip of the documentary we can see the useof narration, interviews and facts and figures which createthe informative documentary.
Observational Mode-Observational mode introduces the mobility of thecamera “new, light equipment made possible anintimacy of observation new to documentary, and thisinvolved sound as well as image.” This means we arenow able to capture a more intimate and personalfilming.-Observational mode tends to just observe, allowingviewers to reach to their own conclusions of thedocumentary.-Pure observational documentarians proceeded undersome bylaws: no music, no interviews, no scenearrangement of any kind, and no narration.An example of this documentary mode could be ‘BigBrother’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_a2tCsxDyi8&feature=relatedThis documentary includes a fly on the wall camerashooting, allowing housemates to do as they wish whilstcameras are watching. The viewer is then able to judgethe programme without any narration or arrangementto alter otherwise.
Participatory Mode-Participatory mode emphasises the interaction betweenthe filmmaker and the topic of the documentary.-The filmmaker tends to become the subject of thedocumentary.-Actively engaging with the situation they aredocumenting asking questions and sharing experiences.-Not only is the filmmaker part of the film, we also get asense of how situations in the film are affected or alteredby her presence.An example of this mode could be the Life of MichaelJackson by Bashir (2004)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kl0uqobeVDMThis documentary includes a subject, plus the filmmakerbeing the interviewer and presenter.Another examples could be Sherman’s March by RossMcElweehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzLXr2tShGE
Reflexive Mode-Reflexive mode exposes the awareness andconstruct of the documentary.-Conveys to people what they are seeing are notexactly the truth, but a reconstruction of the truth.The audience are made aware of the editing, soundand recording etc.-The goal in including these images was, “to aid theaudience in their understanding of the process ofconstruction in film so that they could develop asophisticated and critical attitude.” (Ruby 2005)An example could be A man with a movie camerahttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00ZciIC4JPw
Performative Mode-Acknowledges the emotional and subjective aspects of adocumentary and also addresses the audienceemotionally.-Presents ideas as part of a context, having differentmeanings for different people, often autobiographical.-The emphasis of the filmmaker’s attitude or personalengagement with a subject to evoke the audience’sreaction.-Documentary is shaped into the narrative of anorganisation, conclusion is unidentified.An example of this mode could be Tongues Untied byMarlon Riggshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bX9reaHLwhkAnother example could be An inconvenient truth byDavis Guggenheimhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZbsN8V7_ro