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Modes of Documentary


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Bill Nichol's 6 Modes of Documentary, with examples.

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Modes of Documentary

  1. 1. 6 Types ofDocumentaryBy Victoria Emerson andNicola Pritchard
  2. 2. 1. Poetic Documentaries A mode which first appeared in the 1920’s. It uses poetic manipulation to give the audience an insight into the truth, rather than understanding of a situation. Often non-linear in continuity and style, poetic documentaries can be seen as surreal at times. Strives on visuals to apply description, and uses association to help the audience empathise with the subject. EXAMPLE:
  3. 3. 2. Expository Documentaries-voice of god Using a direct mode of address, the narrator (often male and upper class) appears omnipresent and usually concludes the documentary rhetorically, leaving the audience to collect their own opinion. Despite this, there is a blatant bias, occasionally complimenting their argument with images, commentary and titles. The ‘voice of god’ is an authoritive guidance, manufactured to influence your opinion. EXAMPLE:
  4. 4. 3. Observational Documentaries  Uses a minimum of commentary, disruption and interruption from the cameraperson, whilst also steering away from the abstract style of poetic documentaries.  Nothing is staged, it is often spontaneous and unprovoked. Often, the camera work is shaky, due to the lack of planning. Initially began in the 1960’s, when mobile lightweight cameras were first introduced.  EXAMPLE:
  5. 5. 4. Participatory Documentaries  The cameraperson communicates with the subject – the film maker becomes actively involved with the events and happenings of the documentary. Their opinions and thoughts are accepted. The film maker believes that it is impossible for them to not influence the documentary, and therefore become actively involved.  The film maker withholds a certain amount of power by having the camera, but other than that, they are equal to everybody else featured in the documentary.  EXAMPLE:
  6. 6. 5. Reflexive Documentaries-awareness of the process Resembles ‘a truth’, but doesn’t suggest that it represents the entirety of ‘the truth.’ Reflexive Documentaries make it obvious to the audience that they’re simply representations of the world. It has been described as ‘the most self-conscious of the documentary modes.’ Leaving the audience to question how genuine documentaries are. May reveal a ‘behind the scenes’ insight into how the documentary was made. EXAMPLE: and
  7. 7. 6. Performative Documentaries  A documentary designed either as an emotive response to current events or made to provoke a reaction from the audience.  Often aims to stimulate emotions from the audience.  EXAMPLE: