Talk:Documentary film

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Defining Documentary[edit]

I have edited the implication that Vertov described documentary as the "creative treatment of actuality" (not Grierson) out of the sentence "Grierson's views align with Vertov's conterierson's definition of documentary as "creative treatment of actuality" has gained some acceptance, though it presents philosophical questions about documentaries containing stagings and reenactments." Junius (talk) 07:45, 25 May 2012 (UTC)

Add SnagFilms to External links?[edit] is an online library of over 1,000 documentaries that are all free to watch and share. I would like to add it to External links and am raising the issue here first, per instructions in the warning tag in the article. I feel that this library of documentaries is a valuable resource and fits well with this article. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:27, 15 February 2010 (UTC)

Sounds good. (talk) 00:05, 13 February 2011 (UTC)


The eras don't work out as neatly as they're intended to: Flaherty started out in silent film and continued well after the development of sound; the same overlap will occur between any "eras" constructed here. Where would Riefenstahl fit? She was still filming in her 70s, and may be filming still, at 99.

French New Wave cameras/[edit]

Cinema Veritié, French New Wave used hand held cameras? Not really! Smaller, but this might be a bit misleading. ( (talk) 20:25, 19 November 2007 (UTC))

You, anonymous writer, are exactly correct. :-) The eras don't work out; historical eras never do. The 70s started well before the 70s and ended well before the 80s; the U.S. Civil Rights movement started well before the bus boycott; the first assassinated civil rights leader in the U.S. was Harry T. Moore. Anyway. long & short of it, it's just a convenience. Unfortunately, it's not one commonly adopted by documentary textbooks, so feel free to do away with it. A better move would be to divide docs into commonly accepted movements, e.g. "continental tradition," "newsreels," "cinema verite," "propaganda films," and maybe "experimental docs" (Rain, Koyaanisqatsi) (which I guess would accept also Atomic Cafe and The Last Cigarette? Or put those under "compilation films" maybe?). And yes, Riefenstahl is still filming. She's 100 this year, and releasing a film she compiled from her footage scuba diving. <g> --Koyaanis Qatsi

I put the whole text about history in its own "History"-section. This gave the consequence that the introduction-text is very smal and maybe it would need to be developed a little. David Björklund

I included the info about the making-of documentary. It has to be revised and expanded. --Eleassar777 09:26, 14 May 2005 (UTC)

Movie poster with burning flag fake[edit]

The movie poster with the burning flag is a fake. It was made and published online by someone not connectied to the production and copied to several blogs within a few days around the premier of the movie. Several right wing bloggers were very offended by the poster and saw it as another proof of their view of Moore (and hurried up posting the poster), while some left wing blogs posted and praised the poster, as they didn't realise it was fake. If you take a closer look at an enlargement of the poster, you will see the bad Photoshopping that has been done with the poster.

Thanks for the heads-up It's been there so long, it's funny that no one noticed the "Time Out Dubai" tag on the bottom :-0 . I replaced the fake with the official release poster, which had already been posted for use on the Fahrenheit 9/11 wiki entry.Pixel23 03:31, 14 May 2006 (UTC)

cinema verite vs. direct cinema[edit]

There is some confusion in this section. Works by Kopple and Pennebaker are described as cinema verite, but Kopple and Pennebaker are grouped together (properly, at least in Pennebaker's case -- I can't speak to Kopple) with the direct cinema directors.--Adoorajar 18:35, 15 July 2005 (UTC)

It is clear that there is a distinction between filmmakers who 'observe' and those who 'politicize', in the wide sense. This is a philosophical/ethical debate, and an important one. Would this be the place to discuss the debate?

An historical form - Structure proposal[edit]

I find the distinction between cinema verité and direct cinema to be a bit esoterical. Especially when the general level of complexity that such a short article can attain is kept in mind.

The history of documentary, and its present, is about how filmakers tried to be, either, more truthfull, ethical, or powerfull, with their artform.

My view is that its the history of their strategies, and of their objectives (which cannot be separated from war, then post war criticism, then civic and nationalists mouvements of 60's and 70's, or recently, political correctness and auto-fiction) this is what we should tell.

  • Because if documentary is not truth, its history IS about the relationship of cinema to truth and reality, political, social history.

In parrallel to this evolution of ideas and ideals in various societies, (Russia, Canada, France, US...) there is also the evolution of the techniques of filmaking, of its machinery. The impact of the Nagra, for example, cannot be forgotten.

Could this be a skeleton?

  • 1 The reality Shock

Travelogue and colonial cinema

How cinema was at first seen AS reality

How this spectacle of life evolved in proto documentary travelogues.

  • 2 Futurism and Kino Pravda

The machine myth and artists

How cinema is the objective modern medium 'par excellence' : objective.

  • 3 War and mise en scene

Nations using the tool

Journalism, propaganda, counter propaganda and skepticism.

In studio documentary.

The contradictions of documentary.

  • 4 Recomposing reality

Decolonialist movement, civic rights, candid camera, anthropological cinema, feminist cinema.

Trying to say the truth, and questionning the way films are made.

  • 5 Reality after modernity

Public relations, spins / polemic documentary cinema, reality shows and mockumentary.

How the reality effect of documentary style stuff blurs the line separating fact and fiction in our information era.

Does that make sense to anyone? 19:26, 3 September 2006 (UTC)

Tagged for clean-up[edit]

I tagged this article for clean-up for two main reasons:

  1. Much redudancy. People like Vertov are mentioned in several contexts, sometimes in a repetitious manner. The entire article needs to be rewritten to make it consistent and succinct.
  2. Guidelines need to be established for the external links. They're all over the place now.

--Jeremy Butler 19:32, 10 March 2006 (UTC)

I apologize in advance as I am new to this, so I probably placed this in the wrong spot. Nonetheless, I had an issue with a statement made at the end of the article and, as I'm a newbie, I decided not to edit it but rather bring it up on the discussion page first.

"Documentary Films are protected works of journalism protected under the first amendment."

- That is a very, very debatable statement. If I work for NBC news, according to legal precedent, I can film anyone at anytime. That luxury is absolutely not granted to documentary films. Docs have to get clearances just like any narrative film or risk a lawsuit. Many documentaries do take that risk and take out an insurance policy to protect themselves, but I think that sentence is highly misleading. Documentary films are considered for profit entertainment and are not legally considered journalism according to U.S. law. Am I off base?

External links[edit]

I suggest adding a link to the URL, a website which discusses Frontier Films, a group of filmmakers from the Depression that included Paul Strand, Ralph Steiner, Leo Hurwitz, Willard Van Dyke, and Joris Ivens. The site includes full versions of the classic documentaries The City, Valley Town, and The Spanish Earth. abh9hAbh9h (talk) 14:29, 16 October 2009 (UTC)

I would like to add the URL, a website offering free documentaries in the style of a video log. Reason: It is displayed on the first page of google when searched for "watch documentaries online". It's also very appealing, clean and the documentaries look educational and interesting. I would like to have some feedback as to whether I can place a link or not. Jeffrey87 (talk) 18:09, 25 November 2008 (UTC)

Sorry Jeffrey87, but that link doesn't fit wikipedia's guidelines for external links. The site isn't "about" documentaries so to speak (doesn't discuss documentaries) but rather its a collection of documentaries, and as such it could be seen as promotion or spam. Themfromspace (talk) 04:05, 26 November 2008 (UTC)
Thank you for your reply. Then I can't help but wonder; there is actually one link in the external links section linking to such a site called Free Online Documentary Resource. Is there a specific reason for the approval of this link? I can't seem to find much difference between this site and . Jeffrey87 (talk) 10:37, 26 November 2008 (UTC)
Yea, that site shouldn't have been linked to either. I went ahead and removed the link, thanks for the notice! Themfromspace (talk) 18:53, 26 November 2008 (UTC) features more than 25 free articles written by Documentary Filmmaker Aron Ranen. From learning Interview techniques to the Five Elements of Documentary..all are helpful for DIY wanna be filmmakers in the non-fiction area. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:26, 7 February 2008 (UTC)

I have paired down the external links significantly. Any links that want to be added or re-added should meet the following criteria:

  1. No links to specific documentaries, this article is not a list and we need to keep it from becoming one.
  2. The links add significantly to the content of the article. Remember, Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate collection of links, so most fansites, forums, usergroups, etc. should not be added.
  3. The link has been posted to the talk page for discussion/consensus first.

--Hetar 09:13, 1 April 2006 (UTC)

I would like to add Best Online Docus to the external links. Asking your feedback. URL is -- Lohengrin 16:50, 16 January 2007 (CET)

Comment: I think the idea behind your website ( is good but the site itself looks very much under construction. I would suggest you try to link it from here when it looks a bit better and you have a proper web address. Otherwise it is bound to be deleted by someone. Z.S. March 7, 2007.

I can't alter too much since it's the limitations of Googlepages. It currently links to well over 500 documentaries of various sorts - and ranks highest for a Google search of "Online Documentaries". Don't wish to reconsider? -- Lohengrin 19:50, 8 June 2007 (CET)

I want to link to

  1. Wikipedia should link to pertinent resources, especially those that cover content outside of NPOV. Wikipedia shouldn't be an indiscriminate collection of links.

- Sam May 7

Looks like a production company

this link can be interesting, but I read superficially

Perhaps this link should be added: NW Documentary is a non-profit, award-winning organization that also teaches workshops on documentary film making. --MYfleaster July 24 Might be worth considering, but is largely just a production company from my reading of it. --AlexS July 31, 06

Possible link to Documenttary Films .Net News, reviews, and resources. Reason: Site has been around since 98. Is linked to by most film resource sites, #1 in google for documentary, updated frequently. Likely a good add. --AlexS July 31 06

Maybe should be added. Entire channel on Dish Network dedicated to the showing and distribution of documentaries. -Preston G. Aug 06

    • I'd like to add ClickStar as a reference for documenatary films. On the site is a channel dedicated to documentaries called Jersey Docs which is hosted by Danny DeVito. Visitors can watch free introductions by DeVito on some of the most significant documentaries today. Thanks! - Michelle 1.11.07

I am hoping that people might think my Center is useful on the links page. Center for Social Media at American University showcases social documentaries and the strategies that make them effective. It's at Thanks--Pat Aufderheide Aug 25, 2006

NEW -- request by site editor -- I would like to suggest the European Documentary Portal, a regularly updated site with news on documentary film from around the world. - Thank you. Z. Szilagyi, March 3, 2007

Seriously, the link section of this page is atrocious and is almost longer than the article. There are a handful of useful sites and links, but the rest seem to be milking page rank off the article. --Nhansen 02:48, 14 June 2007 (UTC)

  • I think that this site would actually be useful to the readers of this article. Should I go for the edit?
  • The address is It's currently used by hundreds of universities and high schools as a research resource. (talk) 04:18, 6 August 2008 (UTC)

=====NFB DOCS ONLINE===== The National Film Board of Canada, which is listed on the Documentary Film page under organizations has been digitizing and putting online (for free access) many films, including classics which are cited in some seminal documentary textbooks. I believe these would be valuable links to place in the External Links section. Among the NFB sites where documentary films can be viewed are:

  • (Includes The Hutterites(1964), a classic by Colin Low and Paul Tomkowicz: Street-Railway Switchman, another classic)
  • A site that requires registration that can be done free-of-charge and gives the user access to over 600 complete NFB films.
  • Over 30 NFB documentaries from the 1940s to present.

I acknowledge the concern that the links list is too long, but don't you think giving people direct access to documentary films to view for free online are important links, especially since they illustrate much of the explanatory text about this genre and its history? Does anyone object to adding these external links to this page? Canadian Rockies 19:27, 3 August 2007 (UTC)

French new wave??[edit]

QUOTE: Cinema verite borrows from both Italian neorealism's penchant for shooting non-actors on location, and the French New Wave's use of largely unscripted action and improvised dialogue; the filmmakers took advantage of advances in technology allowing smaller, handheld cameras and synchronized sound to film events on location as they unfold.

This does not make sense. Cinema direct exists in the SAME TIME as the French new wave. They can be seen has a similar mouvement towards lighter production constraints, both in documentary AND fiction.

Suggestions on "list" cleanup?[edit]

I've long been somewhat irritated by the last third of this article - because it's an endless list of lists...I'm not sure how to best deal with the issue, but the article has been tagged for cleanup, and I think we should discuss how best to proceed. Thoughts? --Nhansen 16:15, 28 May 2007 (UTC)

The Four Modes[edit]

Anybody know something about "The Four Modes of Documentary Filmmaking"? Supposed to be something like 1) The Expositional, 2) The Observational, 3) The Interactive and 4) The Reflective or Reflexive. It probably deserves a mention in the article, if it's valid as a way of describing documentary films. -- (talk) 03:51, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

Add National Film Board of Canada to External links[edit]

The National Film Board of Canada has a new web site offering free online streaming of hundreds of new and classic documentaries. I propose to add it to External links and am raising it here first, per instructions in the warning tag in the article. The NFB was founded by documentary pioneer John Grierson and is a world leader in non-fiction film production. Shawn in Montreal (talk) 21:11, 9 January 2009 (UTC)

Actually, I see that someone has proposed NFB links before. (How did this Talk page get so jumbled up?) Anyway, this proposal is for the NFB's new "Beta" viewers with many more online documentaries than before. thanks, Shawn in Montreal (talk) 22:06, 9 January 2009 (UTC)

Image copyright problem with File:Britey for the record poster.PNG[edit]

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Errol Morris?[edit]

What is the relevance of this entire section? I propose deleting it immediately



Film Board of Canada Reference improperly cited[edit]

Chronicle of a Summer (Jean Rouch) and Golden Gloves (Gilles Groulx)[1][2]

The above section references the film board of Canada to support the notion that Groulx and Brault are pioneers of Direct Cinema. The source quite clearly states that their work is "...considered a precursor to the birth of direct cinema." Being a precursor to the birth of a movement and being part of a movement are two different things.


  1. ^, Golden Gloves - ONF - Collection
  2. ^

Some Minor Fixes[edit]

John Grierson did not coin the term, "documentary." I added the caveat "according to popular myth." Also, I eliminated some of the links that were dead. As they were of negligible importance this wasn't too painful (generally one hesitates to eliminate even a dead link, but these ones were not very well chosen). (talk) 00:10, 13 February 2011 (UTC)

Replace "The Power of Nightmares" with proper relevant info.[edit]

Why is "The Power of Nightmares" at the top? It needs to be replaced with the proper "quick info" box like most other articles include. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:31, 27 August 2011 (UTC)

Documentary television merged into this article[edit]

I believe it should be merged because tv is a type of motion picture and film is a broad term for all motion pictures. Ramaksoud2000 (talk) 02:28, 15 December 2011 (UTC)

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  • "Docuempathy films is a term created by the Indian documentary filmmaker and children's book writer Simran Kaler. Docuempathy films are films in which the director is the subject of the film. For example, if a director makes a film on labor issues and he has experienced them personally, then he should be able to "empathize" with the problem or issue in the documentary. Simran Kaler has made 34 documentary films; some of his docuempathies are Five Rivers Still Thirsty, Saade Hise Di Zindagi, In Search of Freedom, A Punjab within Punjab, On Rent, Early Hawkers, The Legend of Malerkotla, Punjab vs. Pesticide, and Wrestling in Punjab."


We've experienced a lot of vandalizism here. Would it be right to semi-protect it for a while? buffbills (talk) 00:49, 17 June 2013 (UTC)

Documentaries about documentary film making?[edit]

Maybe this is a bit offtopic but I would like to see more documentary films about documentary film making. As documentaries seems to gain more and more popularity it would seem important to stop to think about the meta level and how it's hard to be objective. There's Category:Documentary films about films and Category:Works about documentary film but could there be a subcategory Documentary films about documentary film making? I also noticed that films like Michael Moore Hates America and Manufacturing Dissent are not categorised in either of those categories. Should they be, since they include critical look into Moore's methods? In Manufacturing Dissent I liked how they turned the camera on themselves to contemplate wheter they were ethical themselves in the making of the film. These kind of films remind to keep a healthy skeptisism while watching documentaries.--Custoo (talk) 21:45, 22 October 2014 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

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Documentary Film Evaluation[edit]

This article has a lot of information that works for it. For example, there is a good amount of external links to help you find more reliable information. It also goes into detail on the different aspects of documentary and how it has been affected by different artistic and social eras. While the cited information is good and thorough, the downside is that a lot of the information is not cited, therefore making you wary of its reliability. It could easily be improved if you go back to include citations. An article that would be good for reference could be "Participatory Film-Making For Social Change: Dilemmas In Balancing Participatory And Artistic Qualities" in Journal of Arts and Communities. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:35, 22 October 2015 (UTC)

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