What Defines Documentaries?

The documentaries are two types of movies produced, or to be produced to document factual events, or situations in still pictures, or moving pictures.

However, even through the still pictures, there are actions taken to add effects to the archived materials used, or to make the still pictures move, or to partition the subject matter with elementary journalistic methods (with interviews, or reportages) to make it more alive.

So, documentaries take two parts into focus. The first is historically about what has happened in the past in an area. The second on this page are movies, as combined in this film genre and they are well explained through the main content on the page, with its sections.

The first is about the development of historical events of that area, or the changes on climate and its effects on life, or the changes to the habitats in animals and birds life, and the changes of the surface of the earth and the rivers and seas. They cover environmental, geographical and geological matters.

Some of this is explained at documentary film.

The second type of such genre of films is about real people, which is absolutely historical. But, there are also chronicles we could describe as contemporary. This type of records track real life of some people with some powers and effects.

They also record the development of things that effect our lives, such as environmental issues, the development of sciences and the development of arts, education and other interests that have direct effects on our lives.

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So, documentaries are real and are always the contrast of fictional.


Because, the fictional film presents imaginary events, characters, circumstances, environments and so forth, according to its scientific description.

It does that, even when the film director takes some real events and turns them into a film either by himself, or by the help of a scenarist, a narrator to put the film narrative form and a film editor.

You and I know for sure that neither Harry Potter, nor the characters of the Twilight Saga have existed.

Yes, for sure… but, what if I told you that the "American Werewolf in London" was real and it was me! That is only for the sake of the British nurse's eyes.

You will either laugh, or smile.

The notion about a person changes into a wolf, when the moon turns on full, is actually an African myth. Children form the continent heard much of such fairy tales from their grandmothers.

The stories, however take great insights from some factual events a way back in history before civilization. There is nothing like this that could come from emptiness.

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Despite all of this, the fictional film is not completely out of actuality. We read many novels we know as fictional and found that some of the stories are very near, or so related to factual things somewhere in this world, but somehow the stories are plotted to add more fictional impressions and other influential effects to the heart of the stories.

Some fictional give you such feeling. For example "The Old Man and the Sea" seems very real and many of Garcia Marquez stories are actually possible, or have happened actually and then the writer used his own imagination and his own story telling techniques to throw some fictional signs here and there.

Take notes of "No One Writes to the Colonel". Another example is Richard Wright's literary works, especially the novels that I consider as great autobiographies, or accounts of his own life. A person life in changing societies with the same civil rights issues are in fact many persons in these societies. Make notes of "Black Boy".

But, could we consider them documentaries and put them into the chronicles film genre?

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This point could somehow relate documentaries to fiction. But, that is not the rule. There is a soft thread between these two produced forms of movies, which you will come to realize through this insight and decide to put them into such genre.

This also implies that, while the characters in many fictions are imaginary the events are factual and visa versa. The best example to the characters actuality is Roman Polanski's "The Ghost Writer".

It is also a type of a chronicle movie mixed with fictional. There are so many films in this criteria. Could you identify one of them and write about it, using the form at the bottom?

So this why we sometimes consider some fictional as so close to actual life and in some ways they reflect into incidents and real life stories, but with that magic of imaginary characters, or events, or visa versa.

Even the imaginary events have that magic to reveal some instance of possibility. From here the values of a fictional become educational. This doesn't happen far away from documentaries when we look at the components of such film genre.

So, where would you put this film among the film genre? Is it a Western Film?

Common Ideas about Documentaries!

What defines such genre of film is the factual information accompanying the events when the filmmaker records them as they occurred using many archival footages, or when he plays and stages them with the assistance of some actors to present those events to the audience.

During the film shooting the filmmaker may actually seek to have some materials, such as the mentioned archival footages to supply his movie with these footages, maps and some other documentary elements, such as historical findings at the locations of the events, dresses at that time and other materials people had used.

However, at this point the chronicles film raises some cautiousness and is always considered as unreal and biased, as it has happened with many records and reports about the mentioned places in the main part of this article, especially during the Cold War.

It is not only this fact about such genre in movies that raise this suspicion. But,there are some other issues that could make the chronicles not trustworthy at all.

That happens when the chronicle filmmaker takes the events to record them without scripting and staging them and does that only through interviews of eyewitnesses, or contemporary guests, he knows their political orientation, and gets after them to help him present his political ideas.

So, the confidence a documentary movie should raise would be destroyed.

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Sometimes, the staging doesn't make the qualities of such genre of film and that happens when the filmmaker stage false events to present the chronicle he wants even from the same place in focus after many years of the events.

The best example to this is what happens in some documentaries about wars in the Eastern Block, southeast Asia and elsewhere in Africa. And here the filmmaker may seek some help of originally documented events to add to his chronicle film and make it more better.

This, however, would make the chronicles considered as not trustworthy at all. This is why many chronicles, including the chronicles on the mentioned places above face the fact that they are not accurate and reliable.

Surprisingly, this is not supposed of the chronicle movies to do, as  documentaries take a stand positioning an attitude towards something wrong that has happened long ago, or recently, and state an opinion and then advocate a solution.

Yes, this is true, as a chronicle film is primarily projected to do so and is considered by French for this reason "cinema-verite" meaning the cinema of truth. Despite that we find some fake documentaries known as "mockumentaries" and this type doesn't portray actual events, or people.

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Forms and Genres of the Documentaries!

The chronicle moves towards rhetorical form when the producer tries to present materials for argument purposes and to motivate the audience to get the opinion of the subject. This type of persuasion goes through argument, as we see in real life daily and in so many situations.

But, in the chronicle, it talks to the audience directly and tries to get the attention of the audience to take an attitude, or sometimes actions responding to the subject, although the subject might not be of truth value but only an opinion.

The filmmaker also plays on the emotions of the audience rather than presenting facial facts objectively and evidences and thus attempts to effect the audience in his everyday life by his own thoughts and feelings about what he presents.

The filmmakers may use rhetorical form to persuade the audience as we already knew, but a rhetorical form doesn't make the film fictional.

At this instance, although the chronicle film is a film genre, but the documentaries collectively prove to have film genres like the fictional. This could be considered also sub-devision of the entire chronicle genre.

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The other form is the categorical form. Identifying the subject is basic in the categorical form of the documentary film. But, categorical are sometimes boring, so despite the organizational of the film under this form the filmmakers try often to mix chronicles in other forms to make the film appealing and interesting and bring more attention to it.

There are two common genre in documentaries such as nature documentary and compilation film followed lately by the portrait documentary film and the direct cinema chronicle film. So, it is apparently that there are four genres. Nevertheless, a recorded movie of such type may also be positioned to mix between two genres of the documentaries.

The first, which is nature of a chronicle film is widely spreading on TV channels, especially the Swedish TV channels, the German TV channels and of course some great channels like Discovery TV channel, Nature channel and The National Geographic channel,

Freelancing journalists have been commonly working with the filmmaker to complete this type of movie.

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The compilation a chronicled film takes most of its features from archival chronicle sources and then mix the component presenting some interviews to express a point of view.

The portrait type of documentary movies focuses on the life of a person, whether he is a president or statesman, such as "Churchill", "Hitler" and "Stalin", or a Hollywood celebrity, or a writer, or a sportsman, or a normal person.

And as film genre combined, documentaries have some film forms, as you see including the film narrative form, the categorical form and the rhetorical form. Many chronicles are staged as narratives a method used in fiction,s but there are many annals without this form.

Article by Khalid Osman

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