Special Feature on Documentary Reality Bytes

Article excerpt

A considerable amount of space has recently been devoted to reflecting on the burgeoning popularity of the documentary form. The overwhelming response to the call for submissions for this Special Feature on documentary is a small but telling indication of the interest in the form, an interest that justifies a follow-up Special Feature in the second Metro issue for 2005.

Historically relegated to the film festival circuit and limited TV programming opportunities, local and international documentaries have made the transition from the margins to the mainstream, attracting both commercial and critical success. But the non-fiction genre now encompasses much more than the conventional documentary film, with the advent of reality TV programs, online and other reality-based and hybrid formats. In the first of these two Documentary Special Features, writers have explored these and many other aspects of the non-fiction genre.

In 'Documentary and Civic Culture', Dugald Williamson makes a compelling argument for the continuing role of documentaries in exploring 'complex social and political realities'. Drawing on the production histories of several recent Australian documentaries by way of example, Williamson addresses the increasing heterogeneity of the form and the concomitant commercial and creative pressures involved in contemporary documentary filmmaking in this country.

Where Williamson's discussion deals primarily with documentary for the television screen, Adrian Miles examines the topic in relation to a different but equally significant small screen. Tackling the relatively recent genre of the web-based 'blog', Miles argues, that 'although predominantly text-based, blogs can be considered a documentary genre'. Drawing parallels between conventional documentary practice, and the writing and distribution processes underpinning blogs, Miles points to the formative influence that blogs have had, and will continue to have in shaping the form of web-based non-fiction. …