Documentary - spectatorship

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What is Documentary?

  • A film that attempts to document reality
  • focus on real life and include footage of events as they happened
  • scenes are carefully chosen and arranged, usually through editing after filming
  • not scripted and the people in the movie are not typically actors
  • Sometimes, a documentary film may rely on voice-over narration to describe what is happening in the footage; in other films, the images speak for themselves without commentary
  • often includes interviews with people in the film for additional context or information
  • focus on documenting reality above drama or a fictional narrative
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Types of documentary film- Poetic documentaries

  • first appeared in the 1920’s
  • reaction against both the content and the rapidly crystallizing grammar of the early fiction film
  • moved away from continuity editing
  • lack of well-rounded characters
  • people appeared in these films just like any other that are found in the material world
  • element of the modernist counter-model of cinematic narrative
  • ‘real world’ was broken up into fragments and aesthetically reconstituted using film form
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Types of documentary film- Expository documentarie

  • speak directly to the viewer, often in the form of an authoritative commentary employing voiceover
  • a strong argument and point of view
  • Rhetorical, and try to persuade the viewer
  • commentary often sounds ‘objective’ and omniscient
  • presses upon us to read the images in a certain fashion
  • Images exist to advance the argument
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Types of documentary film- Observational documenta

  • attempt to observe lived life with a minimum of intervention
  • Filmmakers who worked in this sub-genre often saw the poetic mode as too abstract and the expository mode as too didactic.
  • First observational docs date back to the 1960’s; the technological developments -mobile lighweight cameras and portable sound recording equipment for synchronized sound.
  • films aimed for immediacy, intimacy, and revelation of individual human character in ordinary life situations.
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Types of documentary film- Participatory documenta

  • believe that it is impossible for the act of filmmaking to not influence or alter the events being filmed.
  • emulate the approach of the anthropologist: participant-observation (the filmmaker part of the film)
  • Situations in the film are affected or altered by their presence.
  • encounter between filmmaker and subject becomes a critical element of the film
  • Also known as 'cinéma vérité'
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Types of documentary film- Reflexive documentary

  • draw attention to their own constructedness, and the fact that they are representations
  • How does the world get represented by documentary films? This question is central to this sub-genre of films. 
  • prompt us to “question the authenticity of documentary in general.” 
  • the most self-conscious of all the modes, and is highly skeptical of ‘realism.’
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Types of documentary film- Performative documentar

  • stress subjective experience and emotional response to the world.
  •  strongly personal, unconventional, perhaps poetic and/or experimental
  • might include hypothetical enactments of events designed to make us experience what it might be like for us to possess a certain specific perspective on the world that is not our own
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