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DOCUMENT
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  • The Documentary Genre
  • What is a ‘Documentary’? A ‘documentary’ is a genre of show, coined by john Grierson, in 1926 in response to Robert Flaherty’s ‘Moana’, a film on life in a secular Samoan Village. The word, ‘documentary’ references an understanding of actuality and fact in the documentation and its display of evidence behind a situation that is currently, has already or will potentially happen; and can even be used to empirically speculate on future events. A typical documentary will often not only discuss/project facts, but will also tend to maintain an argument or question of controversy, immersing the audience as to coax a response or a personal belief. A prime example of this is found in popular TV show, broadcast exclusively on Netflix; ‘Making a Murderer’, which has intrigued a gigantic audience as well as prompting an open and public investigation from the audience, based on their own beliefs on the matter.
  • History: John Corner John Corner defined the ‘purpose’ of a documentary as to inform and document real-life situations to the public. However, he also expressed a concern in the blurring between reality and cinema, which is automatically created in a documentary environment, as we forget the realism in the situation that we are watching, and instead focus on whatever drama has is currently taking place on-screen. This is problematic as it directly contradicts what he, and many others, would clearly define as the purpose of having created a documentary in the first place. Corner tackles this, by making note of the more distinguishing factors of a documentary, creating a more clear divide between documentaries and cinema. This includes ‘the portrayal of sounds and images of actuality’, which essentially refers to the use and application of real documents and imagery contained from the actual incident, such as the use of images of war, when discussing World War II in documentaries produced today, for example.
  • Documentary Types Film makers tend to use a various range of techniques in the constructing of their documentaries. Each different type of documentary aims to address the audience in a different way, sending either a different message, or perhaps creating emphasis and importance, surrounding a particular subject or feature in the key aspects of the film. These types are as follows: Fly-on-the-wall – Is defined by the idea that events are seen ‘candidly, as a fly would see them’, leaving camera-workers working as unobtrusively as possible, allowing reality in the scene to flow. This is often accompanied by an off-screen narrator of sorts. Fully narrated – Completely led b a voice-over narrative. The narrator will often discuss exactly what is taking place on-screen in order to allow audience immersion without confusion over what’s going on in terms of time-frame and action. Self Reflective – The ‘host’ will directly address the audience through the camera, as narrate on the scene of the action.
  • Documentary Types Docudrama – Re-enactment of events in a way that they are supposed to have happened; a favourite among crime-based documentaries. Docusoaps – Follows closely the lives of particular individuals, often within their professions.
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