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Documentary Film Styles

Documentary Film styles range from use of only original archival footage in compilation films to dramatic reenactments that illustrate events for which no archival footage exists. Here you'll read about the elements of style that determine a documentary film's credibility and influence its impact.

Zero Dark Thirty: Controversy Over Truth and Fiction
A look at the controversy surrounding 'Zero Dark Thirty,' Kathryn Bigelow's truth-based narrative feature about the assassination of Osama Bin Laden. How much of the film should audiences accept as truthful?

The 'straight 8' Competition for Documentary Filmmakers
The annual 'straight 8' documentaries competition gives filmmakers the chance of a screening at Sheffield Doc/Fest and the Cannes Film Festival.

Israel's International Student Film Festival Presents First Interactive Feature
'Turbulence,' a narrative feature, uses android-based application to allow audience members to influence the outcome of the story. Presented at Israel's International Student Film Festival, it is the first interactive theatrical feature.

Tribeca Film Institute Launches New Media Fund
Tribeca Film Institute (TFI) and the Ford Foundation's JustFilms have partnered to launch the TFI New Media Fund, a six-year multi-million dollar initiative to find, fund and develop documentary projects that integrate the traditional documentary film format with newer media platforms, including video games and mobile apps, as well as social...

Documentary Film Styles: An Overview
Doc filmmakers use varied techniques, resources and aesthetics to tell their subjects' stories. Understanding their choices isn't essential to enjoying their films, but it makes you a savvier, more sophisticated moviegoer. Having reference points and terminology on the tip of your tongue makes your contributions to post-screening debates much...

Film Noir - Definition of Film Noir
Film Noir is a term used to describe a particular genre of cinema.

Cinéma vérité
Cinéma vérité, also known as Direct Cinema, is a predominant style of documentary filmmaking that entails use of hand held cameras to record true events in as uncensored a way as possible. The style is characterized by there being little evidence of the filmmaker's presence. Nor is there extensive use of voice over narration. Viewers should feel like eyewitnesses to events shown in the film.

Kino-Pravda
Created by Dziga Vertov and several colleagues, Kino-Pravda (Film Truth, in Russian) was a series of fourteen newsreel-like documentaries that revealed 1920s daily life and current events in hyper-realistic detail.

Newsreels
Before television news existed, newsreels were moviegoers' source of information about current events ranging from elections, coronations and wars to sports, finance and fashion. Newsreels were compilation documentaries, with short subject segments covering specific topics. Voice over narration that frequently boosted editorial points of view resembled propaganda.

2010 Selection of Nonfiction Films for the National Film Registry
Of the 25 films selected for the National Film Registry in 2010, eight were documentaries or experimental nonfiction films. This is the annotated list of those films.

Political Cinema
Not all documentary films are objective. During times of war and other and other periods of social stress, film--both documentary and narrative--is often used as propaganda. This is, of course, the opposite of Cinéma vérité.

Documentary Appreciation Guides Available From PBS' POV
Documentary Appreciation Guides Available From PBS' POV

Silverdocs 2011 Transmedia Lab
The 2011 Silverdocs Transmedia Lab offered six filmmaking teams the opportunity to compete for a $5,000 grant to develop multiplatform interactive projects -- including Websites, digital games and social media campaigns -- for their documentary films.

Documentary Director Interviews - Exclusives
A collection of exclusive and candid interviews with leading documentary filmmakers.

Top Documentary Hybrids

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