Documentaries: Overview

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A documentary film is one that aims to record real events or ideas in order to inform the viewer, present an opinion and generate public interest in a topics. There are many types of documentaries including: science, historical and social, nature and investigative. Documentaries in the past were strictly science or nature related. However in modern day documentaries are seen to be more for social interest and they engage the audience more, they are also seen to be more investigative as well. Historically documentaries were to be considered truth telling however the fact still remains that is still a constructed medium as it is still edited to show what the directors want the audience to see. This essay will analyse two documentaries and identify how they have positioned their audience using documentaries conventions and techniques. It will also look at the impact that they have on documentary films and distribution.

“Bowling for Columbine” directed by Michael Moore is a film about the Columbine High School Massacre and the events that may have helped fuel the high school students who committed the murder. It also looks at the history of America and their gun laws and practices and events, which have made the nation ‘gun crazy’. Moore creates mise en scene when he uses file footage of Americans fighting, invading other countries and dying, whilst in the background plays “What A Wonderful World”. In this fast paced documentary Moore uses a small to medium range of interviews in his documentary, where as Morgan Spurlock in “Supersize Me” uses a large part of interviews and a small amount of file footage, where as Moore used a lot. In Spurlock’s film he is a human guinea pig and invites the audience on his 30 day McDonalds binge. In his documentary Spurlock creates mise en scene with shots of him and children playing in a McDonald land playground, which places the audience to believe it is a nice scene with nice background music but under closer scrutiny and...
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