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What type of film could be both enlightening and entertaining? Documentaries are. There is potential in a documentary film, also referred to as non-fictional films, which fictional films cannot grasp. According to Jack C. Ellis, a known documentary film critic, documentaries “(1) communicate insights, achieve beauty, and offer understanding.” They also “(2) improve social, political, or economic conditions” (qtd. in Phillips 299).
In ways documentary films are similar to fictional films. Both types of films have infinite possibilities of topic choices to choose from and have a crew to influence and manipulate the film so that it can be accepted the way they want it represented. However, documentary films are created to be works of informative and factual art. Fictional films, although they may stem from the ground of truth, they branch into the realm of unrealistic entertainment (316).
But why is there a big market for documentaries? The answer is simple. Each person alive; whether they are young, old, intelligent, undereducated, black, white, Baptist, atheist, everyone has an interest in something and documentaries can inform an audience about that particular interest (316).
There are two types of documentaries, the narrative and the non-narrative. The majority of documentary films are made up of non-narrative films, meaning that there isn’t an actual story being portrayed in the film rather just a list of information that make an argument (301).
Narrative documentaries create and develop a story, normally following a person and their ambitions. This type of documentary is more comparable to fictional films versus non-narrative films because the information presented does not have to be sequential as long as it is factual (302,303).
Both types of documentaries use artifacts, such as photographs, that pertain to the subject in their film and are spliced from one frame to another in the editing process, to force the point of view that the director wishes to portray onto the viewer (301 & 306).
This is the reason that Phillips refers to documentaries as ‘Mediated Reality’. A documentary film is biased and cannot be objective. It may be perceived as truth by viewers, but there is a difference between the genuine footage that was recorded and the censored scenes that were developed in editing.
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