The 6 modes of Documentary film making


Here’s what I found…

Poetic Documentary –

This is mostly aligning audio and footage in a way which focuses on tone, rhythm, or spatial juxtaposition. As opposed to a traditional and linear form of film making. This poetic style is normally used to provoke emotion.

Expository Documentary –

This form is more authoritative and informative. There is usually one sole V/O which explains the event to the audience. It started in the 1920’s along with the poetic style. A key example is when a narrator describes the animal kingdom. Does David Attenborough spring to mind?

Observational Documentary –

This may be the easiest of the lot to get to grasps with. This is when you film the subject in it’s natural habitat without much artificial influence. This form of documentary became popular in the 1960’s. It also a good way in which to get a true and authentic piece of text.

Participatory Documentary –

This form involves some sort of participation from  the film maker perhaps in the way of an interview or a conversation on screen. Similar to breaking third wall in theatre. They can also appear as social actors and act as a middle man between the subjects and the audience.

Reflexive Documentary –

This focuses on the relationship between the film maker and the audience as opposed to the subject and the audience. It points out political, and formal assumptions and views and speaks to it directly.

Performative Documentary –

Is about truth and relative. It looks for emotional appeal rather than just gaining knowledge on a subject. It looks closely on mood tone more so than arguments. It takes on the huge emotional pull from the film maker. The film maker plays a big part.

For our documentary we will be using 3 of the 6 forms mentioned. The first being expository as we will be specifically constructing a view for the audience to watch from. This will be from the account of Afoloabi’s friends and family. The second element with be participatory as we will be asking questions and throwing our thoughts at various times. Finally we will adopt an observational style to see how the family interact naturally.


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