New Documentary: A Critical Introduction

New Documentary: A Critical Introduction

New Documentary: A Critical Introduction

New Documentary: A Critical Introduction


Praise for New Documentary:

'It's refreshing to find a book that cuts through the tired old debates that have surrounded documentary film and television. It heralds a welcome new approach.'

Sight and Sound

'Documentary practice changes so fast that books on the subject are often out of date before they are published. Bruzzi's achievement is to have understood the genre as an activity based on performance rather than observation. This is a fresh perspective which illuminates the fundamental shifts that will continue to take place in the genre as it enters its second century.'

John Ellis, Professor of Media Arts, Royal Holloway, University of London

New Documentary provides a contemporary look at documentary and fresh and challenging ways of theorising the non-fiction film. As engaging as the original, this second edition features thorough updates to the existing chapters, as well as a brand new chapter on contemporary cinema release documentaries.

This new edition includes:

  • Contemporary films such as Capturing the Friedmans, 'tre et avoir, Farenheit 9/11, The Fog of Warand Touching the Voidas well as more canonical texts such as Hoop Dreamsand Shoah
  • Additional interviews with influential practitioners, such as director Michael Apted and producer Stephen Lambert

  • A comprehensively revised discussion of modern observational documentary, including docusoaps, reality television and formatted documentaries
  • The work of documentary filmmakers such as Nicholas Barker, Errol Morris, Nick Broomfield, Molly Dineen and Michael Moore and the work of Avant-Garde filmmakers such as Chris Marker and Patrick Keiller
  • Gender identity, queer theory, performance, race and spectatorship.

Bruzzi shows how theories of documentary filmmaking can be applied to contemporary texts and genres, and discusses the relationship between recent, innovative examples of the genre and the more established canon of documentary.


There have been several key developments in documentary film and television production since the first edition of this book appeared in 2000. In terms of generic renewal, the important evolutions that have taken place in recent years have been the renewed popularity of documentaries in the cinema (in the wake of Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine) and the advent of reality television and its close relative the formatted documentary. What both of these indicate is that documentary has become a global commodity in a way it simply was not a mere six years ago. These recent interventions also serve to consolidate and reinforce the central tenet of the first edition of New Documentary, namely that documentaries are performative acts, inherently fluid and unstable and informed by issues of performance and performativity. The latter have become increasingly forefronted as defining concerns of documentary, from the continued rise of docuauteurs such as Michael Moore, to the centrality of performance to reality television and finally to the increased presence of reconstruction in historical documentary where the use of drama has become almost a prerequisite.

Because documentary output has evolved so dramatically over the past few years it did not seem sufficient, when approaching this second edition, to merely tack on a new chapter. All existing chapters have been reviewed and updated, and some have been more radically overhauled. Major changes have been made to the discussion of ‘docusoaps’, for example, with which the old chapter on British observational documentary television concluded. Although some docusoaps have survived, the sub-genre – which had been such a major component of popular television, particularly in Britain – died around the millennium, almost as abruptly as it had risen. In the wake of the phenomenal global success of Endemol’s Big Brother has come ‘reality television’, which in turn has spawned formatted documentaries such as Wife Swap and Faking It. Under the revised title of ‘New Observational Documentary’, Chapter 4 now gives far more prominence to the rise of ‘factual entertainment’ since docusoaps by focusing on reality television and formats. Although for slightly different reasons, Chapter 3 on documentary journeys has been similarly overhauled to take into consideration a wider range of documentaries and now includes discussions of Sherman’s March, Hotel Terminus, Seven Up and Hoop Dreams. It is hoped that this chapter now offers a more comprehensive analysis of why the journey has been such an endur-

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