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Film Studies For Dummies by James Cateridge

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Chapter 8

Getting Real: The Truth about Documentary

In This Chapter

arrow Analysing documentaries, including their ethical dilemmas

arrow Considering the development of documentary film

arrow Untangling the real from the unreal in documentaries

Documentary theorist Bill Nichols has claimed that, in a sense, all films are documentaries. Even the most fantastical fiction film provides information about the culture that produces it, as well as representing the actors and any physical locations used. With this thought in mind, he divides ‘documentaries’ into two categories: wish fulfilment (fiction films) and social representation (what people normally call documentaries).

remember.eps Nichols is deliberately overstating his case in order to emphasise the similarities and crossovers between the two forms of film-making. In particular, he wants to overturn the notion that only fiction films tell stories. Documentaries are often as exciting and dramatic as narrative films, and generally less predictable, because they draw their subject matter from real life. Of course, the boundaries between the two forms are notoriously ...

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