Documentary film

This 16 mm spring-wound Bolex "H16" Reflex camera is a popular entry level camera used in film schools.

A documentary film is a nonfictional motion picture intended to document reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction, education, or maintaining a historical record.[1] "Documentary" has been described as a "filmmaking practice, a cinematic tradition, and mode of audience reception" that is continually evolving and is without clear boundaries.[2] Documentary films were originally called 'actuality' films and were only a minute or less in length. Over time documentaries have evolved to be longer in length and to include more categories, such as educational, observational, and even 'docufiction'. Documentaries are also educational and often used in schools to teach various principles. Social media platforms such as YouTube, have allowed documentary films to improve the ways the films are distributed and able to educate and broaden the reach of people who receive the information.


The cover of Matuszewski book Une nouvelle source de l'histoire. (A New Source of History) from 1898 the first publication about documentary function of cinematography.

Polish writer and filmmaker Bolesław Matuszewski was among those who identified the mode of documentary film. He wrote two of the earliest texts on cinema Une nouvelle source de l'histoire (eng. A New Source of History) and La photographie animée (eng. Animated photography). Both were published in 1898 in French and among the early written works to consider the historical and documentary value of the film.[3] Matuszewski is also among the first filmmakers to propose the creation of a Film Archive to collect and keep safe visual materials.[4]

In popular myth, the word documentary was coined by Scottish documentary filmmaker John Grierson in his review of Robert Flaherty's film Moana (1926), published in the New York Sun on 8 February 1926, written by "The Moviegoer" (a pen name for Grierson).[5]

Grierson's principles of documentary were that cinema's potential for observing life could be exploited in a new art form; that the "original" actor and "original" scene are better guides than their fiction counterparts to interpreting the modern world; and that materials "thus taken from the raw" can be more real than the acted article. In this regard, Grierson's definition of documentary as "creative treatment of actuality"[6] has gained some acceptance, with this position at variance with Soviet film-maker Dziga Vertov's provocation to present "life as it is" (that is, life filmed surreptitiously) and "life caught unawares" (life provoked or surprised by the camera).

The American film critic Pare Lorentz defines a documentary film as "a factual film which is dramatic."[7] Others further state that a documentary stands out from the other types of non-fiction films for providing an opinion, and a specific message, along with the facts it presents.[8]

Documentary practice is the complex process of creating documentary projects. It refers to what people do with media devices, content, form, and production strategies in order to address the creative, ethical, and conceptual problems and choices that arise as they make documentaries.

Documentary filmmaking can be used as a form of journalism, advocacy, or personal expression.

Other Languages
العربية: فيلم وثائقي
asturianu: Documental
azərbaycanca: Sənədli film
Bân-lâm-gú: Kì-lio̍k-phìⁿ
català: Documental
Ελληνικά: Ντοκιμαντέρ
español: Documental
Esperanto: Dokumenta filmo
euskara: Dokumental
français: Documentaire
galego: Documental
贛語: 記錄片
Bahasa Indonesia: Film dokumenter
íslenska: Heimildarmynd
italiano: Documentario
Kreyòl ayisyen: Documentaries
Кыргызча: Документ кино
Lingua Franca Nova: Filma atestante
македонски: Документарен филм
Bahasa Melayu: Filem dokumentari
Nederlands: Documentaire
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Hujjatli film
Patois: Dakiumenchri
ភាសាខ្មែរ: ឯកសារភាពយន្ត
português: Documentário
română: Film documentar
sicilianu: Ducumintariu
slovenčina: Dokumentárny film
کوردی: بەڵگەفیلم
српски / srpski: Документарни филм
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Dokumentarni film
Türkçe: Belgesel film
Tiếng Việt: Phim tài liệu
吴语: 纪录片
粵語: 紀錄電影
中文: 紀錄片