LeoGlossary: Documentary

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A documentary is a non-fictional film intended to "document reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction, education or maintaining a historical record". Bill Nichols has characterized the documentary in terms of "a filmmaking practice, a cinematic tradition, and mode of audience reception [that remains] a practice without clear boundaries".

Documentaries can be about any subject, from current events to history to personal stories. They can be serious or humorous, and they can be made for a variety of audiences. Documentaries can be used to inform, educate, entertain, or persuade.

Some of the most famous documentaries include:

Shoah (1985)
Hoop Dreams (1994)
March of the Penguins (2005)
An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
Blackfish (2013)
O.J.: Made in America (2016)
Icarus (2017)
Free Solo (2018)
American Factory (2019)
CODA (2021)
Navalny (2022)

Documentaries can be a powerful tool for storytelling and social change. They can help us to understand the world around us and to see things from different perspectives. Documentaries can also inspire us to take action.

Here are some of the key characteristics of documentaries:

  • Non-fictional: based on real people, events, and places
  • Educational: intended to inform and educate the audience
  • Creative: can be creative and artistic, but they must be truthful and objective

Documentaries are an important part of the film industry. They provide us with a window into the world and help us to understand the human experience.


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