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Change in Documentary Genre

Categories: Change

The documentary genre has changed over time. Changes in society have had an impact on the change. There are large commercialist pressures for documentary to become more entertaining and engaging to capture a wider cinema going audience. Documentary has become increasingly popular. Documentaries such as Bowling for Columbine by Michael Moore have been given numerous awards and were widely popular at the box office. The Grey Gardens is a 1975 documentary by Albert and David Maysles. The film depicts the lives of a socialite mother and daughter living in a decrepit mansion.

The Grey Gardens uses an observation style of documentary. It uses old style music and the editing pace is slow. The Grey Gardens provides a very different experience than the more recent documentary. The old style of the documentary would have been entertaining to the audience of 1975 as they were more conservative than today’s society and would have been able to relate to the people in the documentary. The changes in society have expanded the documentary genre to make it more interesting for the audiences of today.

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The documentary Bowling for Columbine by Michael Moor is an example of the change in the documentary genre.

It is a powerful documentary for the audience as it addresses a very important issue about gun control in the United States. Michael Moore uses humour within the documentary to make it more entertaining and to attract a wider age of viewers than a documentary such as the Grey Gardens. Michael Moore ridicules many of the events and people portrayed throughout the film, such as Charlton Heston, making it entertaining and humorous.

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The documentary uses a fast editing pace, with Michael Moore creatively putting shots that seem to be unrelated together, such as the Kosovo bombings and the September 11 attacks.

As well as making it more captivating for the audience these shots evoke strong emotion and manipulates them into taking Moore’s side. His intensive use of music as ironic punctuation is able to change the mood of the film from humour, to sadness, to horror. The audience is entertained by the documentary because it is reflecting on an issue that affects the U. S. A, it discusses events such as the Kayla Rowland murder and the Columbine shooting which are well known events to society and manipulate the viewer into taking a negative stance on gun control.

Touching the Void uses a different style of documentary than that of Bowling for Columbine. Touching the Void is a moving documentary that uses dramatic reconstruction and interviews, which cut between each other. Unlike Bowling for Columbine file footage was not used as there was no file footage of the actual event. The combination of these conventions is entertaining to the audience as it allows them to connect with the mountaineers. The combination of eerie violin music and the dramatic reconstruction is chilling to the viewer and makes them engage with the mountaineers.

The interviews make the story seem more truthful to the audience. The audience connects with the documentary because people in society are interested in other peoples lives and the documentary gives insight into part of the mountaineers lives, with the use of the conventions. Touching the Void impacted on the genre by using this different style of documentary making documentaries more like films. These types of documentaries are called docudrama. The documentary Jesus Camp by Rachael Grady and Heidi Ewing is another example of how the documentary genre has changed over time.

Like the Grey Gardens it uses an observational style but has a faster editing pace and uses more modern music such as Christian Heavy metal music. The documentary is interesting to the audience because although it is humorous it is also shocking to the viewer. It uses very moving, spiritual music to relate to the religious theme of the documentary and to evoke strong emotions and opinions of the viewer. The documentary uses shocking live footage and fast paced editing to shock the audience.

Like Touching the Void it provides insight into the people’s lives showing societies pre-occupations with other peoples lives. The nature of documentary films has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. The film genre has become increasingly successful with films such as Super-size Me, Bowling for Columbine and an Inconvenient Truth being among the most successful examples at box office. Pressures on documentary to be more entertaining have caused some controversy in documentaries such as Bowling for Columbine where critics have questioned where it can actually be alled a documentary as unrelated shots are put together to create a negative and biased view on gun control in the U. S. A. With the increasing popularity and development of “reality television”, which veers to the fictional and is often staged. This aspect of documentary makes people more suspicious of the genre and less likely to accept it as the truth. The need for society to be entertained will have an affect on documentary as they will have to become more entertaining to continue to attract the wider cinema going audience.

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Change in Documentary Genre. (2018, Oct 13). Retrieved from

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