The Spectrum of Documentary Cinema

Documentary filmmaking may be the trickiest and most malleable of genres, mostly because of the contradictory questions at its core. Is it about telling the truth or capturing reality? Is it about the story or the message?

Well, documentary cinema is all and none at the same time, for documentaries ought to be measured on a spectrum of objectivity-subjectivity according to the artist’s intent and the film’s purpose. It’s an art form, not journalism, after all.

Here’s a sexy graphic for clarity:

the-spectrum-of-documentary

As a filmmaker and film critic, I’m partial to modes II and III, since going to the extremes can make a documentary too boring or too preachy to capture the attention of general audiences. Ultimately, cinema is all about reaching audiences, not the content itself.

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