Why are documentary films important? Perhaps a better question would be, what sells documentary films? Why does the viewer choose to remain hooked on the reality of life rather than its larger-than-life portrayal in fiction? What is the one unfiltered feature of life that acts as the focal point of a documentary film?
One of the most eye-catching things about documentaries is their ability to offer a unique perspective on real-life events, issues, and people;
The in-depth view into a story that is not often seen in mainstream media, and can offer a more nuanced and complex understanding of the world.
Documentary films can be diverse, covering a wide range of topics such as politics, history, science, art, culture, and personal experiences; but they all share the same key component- the people, their lives, and their stories that intrigue the viewers.
Documentaries tend to be more relatable, emotional and striking than fictional stories, making the audience connect and feel more involved.
People and their stories play a crucial role in documentaries and often serve as the central focus of the film. They provide a human perspective on the subject matter, and can make the information delivered to the audience more personal and engaging. Furthermore, the personal experiences and perspectives of those featured in a documentary can provide insight and context that may not be available through traditional forms of information gathering. The interviews with experts, witnesses, and people involved in the story provide a deeper understanding of the subject than a more conventional fictional enactment.
For example, a documentary about poverty may feature stories of individuals or families who are struggling financially, which can help the audience understand the impact of poverty on real people's lives. Similarly, a documentary about a historical event may include interviews with people who were directly involved or affected by the event, which can help to provide a more personal and nuanced understanding of what happened.
Moreover, people and their stories can be used as a way to connect the audience to the subject matter and make them care about it, by highlighting the human aspect of the story. This can also be used to create a sense of empathy and understanding towards the people being featured in the documentary, making the audience more likely to take action or change their perspective.
The creative aspect of documentary filmmaking involves a variety of elements, including the development of the story, the selection of footage, and the use of visual and audio techniques. The goal is to select a topic, research and find the story, and structure the narrative in a way that is engaging and informative for the audience. The story and the narrative are further enhanced with the usage of a wide variety of filming techniques, visually stunning cinematography and emotional music, to engage the audience and make the material more impactful.
It is the narrative and the story that goes above and beyond, because the very foundation of narratives is the perspective one has to offer and how the filmmaker wants the audience to envision the film, and there have been many thought-provoking and mind-bending narratives that offer a fresh look on documentaries. For example, in "Framing Britney Spears," the documentary film that sparked the #FreeBritney movement, the most remarkable aspect of the video was not the moment that it captured, but how the individuals in Britney Spears' social circle seemed to be eager contributors in narrating the tale of her growing, massive popularity and all the torments that it brought, even when they were the principal perpetrators.
The narration can guide the audience through the story, provide context and background information, and help tie the different elements of the film together. The overall creative aspect of documentary filmmaking is about finding the right balance between the informative and emotional aspects of the story and creating an engaging narrative that will captivate the audience.
Another defining feature of documentary films is the way they can bring attention to important social and political issues. These films can serve as a call to action, raising awareness about problems that need to be addressed and inspiring people to take action. Documentary filmmakers are increasingly using social impact campaigns with their films. Social impact campaigns seek to leverage media projects by converting public awareness of social issues and causes into engagement and action, largely by offering the audience a way to get involved.
In addition to traditional documentaries, there has been a rise in recent years of a subgenre known as the “cinematic essay”. These films use a more personal and subjective approach, often blending fiction and non-fiction elements to create a unique and thought-provoking experience.
Documentaries might be challenging to sell, but they are becoming more popular. Documentary films, previously perceived as formal and boring, have risen in recent years, due to several groundbreaking, and perhaps world-changing films. The genre is vast, covering a wide variety of issues, and its approach to narrative is continuously growing - an important aspect in the evolution of documentaries and what keeps audiences engaged. Whether it is through traditional documentaries, cinematic essays, or a combination of both, the power of documentary films lies in their ability to offer a unique perspective on reality and bring attention to the world's most pressing issues.