Documentaries have expanded themselves across a variety of lifestyles, and their persuasiveness have become more appealing with the evolution of technology. The making of documentaries were shot and filmed with Film Stocks around the early 1900s. The French influenced this arond this time and would often refer to them as “Travelogues” and “Instructional Films.” These films mostly consisted of single shot moments such as a train entering a station. Another term that was involved with this practice was "Actuality Films.”
The evolution of documentary filmming took many forms by way of tradition. It was a documentary film movement!!
As the history of documentaries started to take off, Travelougue Films gained their popularity mainly due to the French and their take on short films. Distributors would refer to them as “Scenics” and a prime example of this was a film entitled “In The Land of The Head Hunters” which was released in 1914. Primitism, and Exoticism were introduced upon the plot of this film which was a take on the factual re-enactments of the Native Americans. Their history and their culture was portrayed on film to give an insight into how things really were among them.
Following Scenic Films, Romanticism began to take flight in film-making after “Nanook Of The North” made its debut in 1922. And not long after , other forms of documentary film-making techniques were introduced. Robert Flaherty fueled these types of films thoe most by making each one heavy staged,
and also showing the wonders of the characters had they of lived at least a century earlier, instead of in the current lifestyle they lived as the film was being shot. These type of films gave off a “Back In Time Feel” to things.
Some other Documentary Traditions are: The City Symphony, Kino Pravda, and the Newsreel Tradition.
The films that were produced between the 1930s and 1940s were in majority shot in the most major economies which was Britain and the USA.
It’s especially interesting to look into and view these pieces from the development of documentaries because they were filmed with equiptment that was far more complex than the simplicity of technology that we have today. The Newsreel Tradition really began to shape and mold the material content of documentaries today, from the movies to the news. The Film “48 Hours” demonstrates this by mirroring events that have happened in recent times in the news, etc. This was done by hiring actors/actresses and re-enacting the events all over again.
Propaganda films mainly focus on the re-enactment of events but unlike the Newsreel view it was to raise awareness to persuade people, and almost induce a response from the viewer. This was pretty evident during the 1960s and 1970s when these type of films were used as political weapon to fight politics. Many of the filmmakers during this time felt passionate about getting across their message about the state of politics and the events they influenced so they expressed them through making films and releasing them to the public to get their voices heard.
Kino Pravda Films better known as “Cinema Truth (Part One)” Newsreel films took off thanks to Dziga Vertov. The Term Kino Pravda is russian for the phrase “Cinema Truth.” A lot of the films’ shots dealt with motion in different ways which helped to expand filmmaking techniques. This in turn influenced documentaries as a philosophy, advancing the filmmaking techniques significantly.
When the 1930s to the 1940s came around, the War-Time propaganda Films expressed a point in its content of pesuadign an audience. The film entitled “Triumph of the Will” is a very precise and clear example of this.
The creation of “Cinema Truth (Part Two)” Films approached during the period of the 1950s up until the 1970s. Cinema Truth Part One and Cinema Truth Part Two are distiguished by two separate types filmmaking which took on different aspects to their advantages to bring something different visually. Cinema Truth Part One was a homage to Vertov. And Cinema Truth Part Two is is based on furthering those techniques by way of technogy-based advances such as handheld cameras, and synchornized sound upon their introductions to the filmmaking process. The tools that offered these advances often portrayed a more personal reaction, and their were no sit-down interviews either. The shooting ratios were at least 80:1 which allowed the editors to fine sculpt it into a film to showcase the work in its best light.
Compliation films are among another documentary tradition that was pioneered in 1927 with a film entitled “The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty” by Esfir Schub. These type of films are based and shot on achival material. An example of this is for example, a director who produces a compilation film about the Iraq War by utilizing only footage that was shot by news cameramen who were among active troops. This eliminates the need for going out and shooting scenes, and then coming back to the a studio or the directors home and then having to go through the long process of editing.
Documentary wothout words have also gained interest with the public. Many of these either have little to no narration with the plot focused on visuals, or a mixture of both to keep the interest and flow of the movie intriguing. The film “Bodysong (2003)” is a precise example of this, and it garnered a British Independent Film Award for “Best British Documentary.” “Genesis (2004)” displayed nature and its life forms in different states of emotions which were shown visually, and followed by some brief narration.
DocuFiction films meshed together fiction film and documentarties creating an interesting fusion of the two.
Modern Documentaries are often low-budgeted but that just means that everyone involved including the screenplay writers and directors have to be more creative. And in using what you have, it inspires and then produces some of the best work we’ve ever made, and it is definitely something we can be proud of. As a result film companies have become even more enamored by these type of films regardless of its content and plot. You can easily turn something your passionate about into something big if you have the drive.
Today the reception and response from documentaries are well-received at the box office. The releases of the films “Super Size Me” , and also“Fahrenheit 9/11” have had a extraordinary wave of influence as a result. What started out in the early 100s shooting films with film stock, has dramatically changed into something bigger than itself when technology advanced itself and changed not only the way we film, but the message we want others to see, and more importantly how we want others to see it. Pictures are worth a thousand words, but one can only imagine how many entail a video, and more evidently a film.
Notes & references:
Nichols, Bill. 'Foreword', in Barry Keith Grant and Jeannette Sloniowski (eds.) Documenting The Documentary: Close Readings of Documentary Film and Video. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1998
Miriam Hansen, Babel and Babylon: Spectatorship in American Silent Film, 2005.
Grierson, John. 'First Principles of Documentary', in Kevin Macdonald & Mark Cousins (eds.) Imagining Reality: The Faber Book of Documentary. London: Faber and Faber, 1996
Slate, "Paranoia for Fun and Profit: How Disney and Michael Moore cleaned up on Fahrenheit 9/11". May 3, 2005.
Wood, Daniel B.. "In 'docu-ganda' films, balance is not the objective", Christian Science Monitor, June 02, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-06-06.