Documentary films: a bit of background

A documentary film is a movie that reflects an aspect from reality. A documentary film is not dramatized or staged in any way. Everything should be true. It is not unusual that a documentary film deals with subjects like history science and nature. Stories about spectacular destinies or political differences also falls int o the norm of documentary films. A documentary can be directed as an ordinary movie with actors. It is very hard to draw a line between a regular movie based on real events and a documentary.  When something is portrayed in a movie you can see it as an edited version of something that has happened in real life. It is impossible to recreate the actual happening of the event, but a documentary should reflect the truth as good as possible.

The meaning of the word
The word documentary has been used since the 13th century in England with the same meaning as med teaching or instruction. This comes from old French words for document meaning lesson and proof in writing. It is often said that the word documentary was used for the first time in movies when the Scottish moviemaker John Grierson wrote the movie “Moana” The moviemaker making it was Robert Flaherty and the movie was released in 1926. Flaherty also did the movie” Nanook – s son of cold” in 1922, it is often seen as the first documentary movie.

Often with the makers view and opinion
A documentary often reflects reality and the moviemaker’s way of looking at it. Many famous documentary film makers can be recognized in their way of filming and their way of looking at the reality. A documentary film should get a creative treatment, which means that the viewer gets a look in to the characters life to get to know them in a way. That Is why you can´t take a surveillance camera constantly filming and then call it a documentary. No one knows about the characters background and why they act like they do. All movies are made with propaganda meaning that the moviemaker, often discreetly, puts his/her opinions into the movie. When opinions and attitudes are shown in a markedly it is called a propaganda movie. The risk here is that the viewer will be fed false information if they don´t have enough knowledge about the subject.

Positive trend for documentaries
Documentary films has had a positive trend in the last few years thanks to the controversial American moviemaker Micael Moore. He is known for his critical position on violence, the invasion of Iraq and the George W Bushs administration in the period 2000 to 2008 when Bush was president in the USA. In the movie “Farenheit 9/11”, Moore is criticising the administration on their actions after the terror attacks at World Trade Center, mainly about the war on terrorism. Michael Moore digs deeply in to the administration and their connection to Saudi Arabia and the president’s personal connections to the Bin Laden family. The movie won the Golden palm at the movie festival in Cannes but lacked distributor. Disney and Miramax, that owned the rights, didn´t want to release the movie at first since it would be bad publicity due to the criticism and reveals on the Bush administration. It all ended with a deal being made with a smaller company that distributed the movie but gave Disney and Miramax large profits.

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