History of Documentary Filmmaking - Essay Example

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History of Documentary Filmmaking

Documentary film initially referred to movies shot on film stock1. Eventually, however, it has expanded to include video and digital productions that can be either direct-to-video2 or made for television series.
John Grierson, a film maker, used the term 'documentary' to refer to any non-fiction film medium, including travelogues3 and instructional films. By definition, the earliest moving pictures were documentaries. They were single-shot moments captured on film. Due to technological limitations such as small amounts of film contained in movie cameras, very little information could be recorded and stored. Thus many of the first films are a minute or less in length. Auguste and Louis Lumire made this type of films. They staged the first public film screening on 28th December 1985 in the basement lounge of the Grand Cafe on the Boulevard des Capucines in Paris ("Chronology", 2007).
In the early part of the twentieth century travelogue films were very popular. The film In the Land of the Head Hunters (1914) filmed by photographer Edward Curtis embraced primitivism and exoticism in a staged story presented as truthful reenactments of the life of Native Americans. In 1919, Russian film maker Dziga Vertov issues a manifesto (Kinoks-Revolution Manifesto) calling for a new styles of cinma tic reportage that documents real life. ...Show more


Documentary is an extensive category of visual expression that attempts to portray actual people, places, activities, and events ("Documentary", 2005). It endeavors to present reality and facts, not fiction. Documentary film displays life as it is. It is a "reality-driven representation" (Renov, 1993)…
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