Documentary Genre: Why I Love It.
I thoroughly enjoy a good documentary. I relish the glimpse into a real person’s life and their story unveiling during the hour and a half that you are with them. I enjoy nature documentaries that showcase the amazing natural world that is often forgotten about or just never seen in our daily lives. I enjoy the dark stories, the joyful stories and the stories that make you realise the things you have in common with people from completely different backgrounds.
Documentary opens a door so you can think outside the box. That’s what it does for me. Whether it is a film about a woman’s personal journey to find her long lost twin, or a film about cheetahs struggling to survive in Kenya, documentary has the power to hook me in; to make me become absorbed into another life in a different way than fiction does.
I love fiction as well, some of favourite films and TV shows are fiction and fantasy, but there’s always that underlying knowledge that these are just actors doing their job – no matter how absorbed into their world you become, you do know that it is fictional. With documentary I think I enjoy the genuine authenticity of the stories, that they are inescapably real and that is what gives me the thrill. You know that when the person cries, they are not doing that for the camera but in spite of the camera. You know that when the camera crew nearly gets trampled by an elephant, that that was very much a near death experience and they are lucky to be alive. That is what has always captivated me about the documentary genre. It doesn’t matter if there’s a shaky camera or the lighting is terrible, what matters is the journey that you are brought on and that everything you see is real, happening in real life to real people.
Documentary is not unbiased of course, every film has its story arc and is edited in a certain way to shape the narrative, but the people are real, and what struggles or triumphs they experience are real. That’s what makes it relatable, fascinating and powerful. From the insights into famous lives to the exploration of a an unknown story, documentary is addictive. Documentary filmmakers often embody the Thriller genre which works effectively for films such as Blackfish (2013), Amy (2015) and TV Series Making A Murderer (2015). Thriller Documentaries as a sub-genre are very successful in capturing the audience and telling a story in an exciting and compelling way. The Thin Blue Line (1988) is another documentary thriller which incorporates the ‘reconstruction’ into its narrative that introduces a blurring of fact and fiction but one which we see in a lot of American television documentaries. These types of documentaries are the most sculpted for mainstream viewing and I think that the filmmakers are very aware of what works in thriller documentary and what thrills the audience. As a viewer, I find it a very effective technique.
Sometimes though, I just want to get lost in a journey of self-discovery in someone else’s life that perhaps doesn’t have a riveting narrative but that loses itself in the moments of reflection and understanding. Documentaries that take you on an intimate journey with someone such as Twinsters (2015) and Sergio Herman, Fucking Perfect (2015) which screened at the Galway Film Fleadh 2015. These films may be slow paced at times but they give you the chance to really get to know the people in front of the camera and you get to experience their life over a certain period of time. By the end you have seen some private moments, some insights into their way of thinking, their ambitions, hopes and dreams and their personal triumphs and tragedies. This is what makes documentary compelling and captivating; the real stories and connections with the subjects of the film. Knowing that when the credits roll, they are still out there living their lives in the real world.
The next documentary I’m going to watch will be India’s Daughter which is currently on Netflix. How about you? Please leave your recommendations in the comments below, I would love to hear from you.
Thanks for reading.