Introduction to Documentary

Introduction to Documentary

Introduction to Documentary

Introduction to Documentary

Synopsis

This new edition of Bill Nichols's bestselling text provides an up-to-date introduction to the most important issues in documentary history and criticism. Designed for students in any field that makes use of visual evidence and persuasive strategies, Introduction to Documentary identifies the distinguishing qualities of documentary and teaches the viewer how to read documentary film. Each chapter takes up a discrete question, from "How did documentary filmmaking get started?" to "Why are ethical issues central to documentary filmmaking?" Carefully revised to take account of new work and trends, this volume includes information on more than 100 documentaries released since the first edition, an expanded treatment of the six documentary modes, new still images, and a greatly expanded list of distributors.

Excerpt

Organized into chapters by a series of questions, the second edition of Introduction to Documentary examines this fascinating type of filmmaking in detail. The questions involve issues of definition, ethics, content, form, modes, and politics. Because documentaries address the world in which we live rather than a world imagined by the filmmaker, they differ from the various genres of fiction (science fiction, horror, adventure, melodrama, and so on) in significant ways. They are made with different assumptions about purpose, they involve a different quality of relationship between filmmaker and subject, and they prompt different sorts of expectations from audiences.

These differences, as we shall see, guarantee no absolute separation between fiction and documentary. Some documentaries make strong use of practices such as scripting, staging, reenactment, rehearsal, and performance that we associate with fiction. Some adopt familiar conventions such as the individual hero who undergoes a challenge or embarks on a quest, building suspense, emotional crescendos, and climactic resolutions. Some fiction makes strong use of conventions that we typically associate with nonfiction or documentary such as location shooting, nonactors, hand-held cameras, improvisation, found footage (footage not shot by the filmmaker), voice-over commentary, and natural lighting. The boundary between the two realms is highly fluid but, in most cases, still perceptible.

Since notions about what is distinct to documentary, and what is not, change over time, specific films may well spark debate about the . . .

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