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Television has played an important role in many people’s lives, and many question on whether watching television can have an impact on one’s intellect, or is only for entertainment purposes. While many television shows are only a form of entertainment, other shows have many positive and informational uses in which people can learn from. Normally, television has always been informative for spreading the news of current world events, but one of the most useful and educational types of television shows that people can learn from are “Documentary films”.
Documentary films differ from the typical Hollywood films because of one main reason. While films and movies tend to be fictional, and are acted out by celebrities, documentaries are non-fictional and realistic films. The main purpose of documentary films is to essentially tell realistic stories, and provide information as well as opinions on a topic in question (or a specific message concerning that topic), while supporting them with proper facts and proofs.
In other words, documentaries are visual expressions that show reality, mostly issues and life biographies, in order to get full detail on a particular subject. There are many types of documentaries that deliver different messages. They have a very broad and diverse category of films. Some examples of documentary forms include the following: Biographical films on particular people such as “When we were Kings (1996)”, Historical films such as “The Civil War (1990)”, Political films such as “War made easy (2007), Scientific films that examine a specific subject such as “King Corn (2007)”, Sports films such as “The Endless summer (1966)”, Concerts or live performances films (Woodstock, 1970), Spoof films, Sociological documentaries, and much more.
Each type of documentary has its own purpose and statement, so most documentary films can be categorized under either entertainment or educational forms, but many are also good examples of argumentation such as “Who killed the Electric Car (2006)” or “The Moon landing Hoax- Conspiracy theory” (List). Almost all of the types of documentaries can educate people who want to receive a better understanding of a particular subject. If one wants to learn more about politics, watching a political documentary would certainly expand their knowledge on it, or if one wants to receive better background knowledge about historical events, that’s what historical documentaries are for, and so on.
One can learn many things through documentaries because of their potential educational value. They can educate, inform, and perhaps help change our own attitudes, minds, and views towards all kinds of different things. The topics or issues in documentaries are normally relevant, in-depth, and interesting in order to gain and maintain a connection with the audience. They provide a particular view, interpretation, and understanding of the given information. Documentaries also put forward arguments and cases through which we can expect to learn from, so they speak about and allow other to speak for themselves. Therefore, by explaining and informing about a topic, or putting forward an argument, it is possible to teach individuals on a subject, and change the way they think about the world. Because documentaries are informative and very educational, they are great sources for research. Documentary films are now being used more in schools, because it is known that students often comprehend better than from a regular class lecture. Not to mention that they’re even more entertaining than books, because they’re visual and this helps students learn more and remember better. Documentaries can also teach students in argumentative writing, since many documentaries present controversial topics. Not only would students enjoy watching a film in class, but these types of documentaries can show students some techniques used in arguing a position or point of view. For instance, an instructor can prepare questions and hand them out for students before starting a film. The instructor can ask questions that would help students understand more about argumentation techniques, questions like, “What is the argument presented in the documentary?”, “Is the argument convincing? Why or why not?”, or “How did the filmmaker support his/her argument?” By this, students can learn a lot about the important aspects of these kinds of essays.
Many would describe documentaries as bias and not as factual as most would believe because they’re structured just to appeal to and engage the audience. However, I believe that only the argumentative/controversial documentaries or documentaries that are filmed specifically to persuade, are the ones that might be biased. They tend to be more subjective, but even though, one can still learn from them as important social and emotional messages can be represented. They can teach people to look at a topic in a different perspective, and in that way, people would perceive and understand the different views and ideas of that topic; therefore, through this, one can base their judgments and beliefs of a certain topic according to what they’ve learned from that documentary film. One good example of a documentary film that’s intended to persuade its audience and send an important message is the film, “Super-Size Me (2004)”. This documentary was directed and acted out by “Morgan Spurlock”, and it explores the health consequences of eating fast food, and in particular, McDonalds chain of restaurants. He investigates the effects of the fast food by conducting an experiment. Morgan decides to eat nothing but McDonald’s food for thirty days, with limited physical activity. He checks up with three doctors and a nutritionist to help track the progress of his health. The experiment resulted in drastic consequences that physically harmed his health. After watching this documentary, it became clearer to me how serious the effects of fast food are. While this was not news to me, I was surprised by the results, and although I knew about the consequences of fast food, I never knew that it could reach to such a high extent and jeopardize one’s health that much. Many say that Morgan’s experiment was poorly designed because it was a bit overdone. However, even if it was, it’s undeniable that the point he was trying to emphasize was important, and I have definitely learned so much about the message he was trying to get across.
There are many types of educational programs on television that are also as useful, but I’d say that documentaries are the most effective. They’re very profound and straightforward. One can learn about almost anything through documentaries whether it was about politics, religion, economy, food, technology, music and many more. I would also add that many of the documentary films are eye-openers, since they provide very beneficial and detailed information. Some might find documentaries as boring and not very factual, but if one really focuses on the content and message of the documentary, they’ll find it very useful.
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