Evolution of Documentary filmmaking

Documentary filmmaking is a broad term, which describes a non-fiction film that intends to capture reality. This kind of filmmaking has no set boundaries, and it gives a lot of freedom to the filmmaker to explore.

According to a popular belief, the word ‘documentary’ was coined by a Scottish documentarian John Grierson. It is said that he had used the word in his review of Robert Flaherty’s film ‘Moana’. Grierson believed that through this from life could be exploited in a new format. He felt the original ‘actor’ and ‘scene’ are better guides than their fictional counterparts. For him, it was a ‘creative treatment of actuality’. Thus, was born a new form of filmmaking.

As interesting as the genre is, the history of Documentary filmmaking is equally intriguing. It all started with the invention of the camera by the Lumiere brothers in 1895. Films captured by this camera were unedited footages of life around them; the most prominent example being, the single-shot documenting the arrival of a train at a station. These short films were called ‘Actualities’ or as we call them ‘Slice of life’ films today.

The era of post 1900s popularised the generation of Biographical documentaries. One of the most recognised works of that time is ‘Eminescu-Veronica- Creangă’ in 1914, which depicted the relationship between writers MihaiEminescu, Veronica Micle and Ion Creangă.

As films increasingly became narrative-based, documentarians branched out to create other forms. After the 1920s, this genre included various style forms like romanticism. There was a phase of propagandist tradition, consisting of films trying to persuade the audience with a point.

By the 21st century the genre of documentary filmmaking evolved to become the part of popular cinema, giving the audience some of their best work. Documentaries like Fahrenheit 9/11, Super Size Me, Food, Inc., Earth, and An Inconvenient Truth are just to name a few. And the most recent was the Oscar-winning ‘Citizenfour‘ which deals with the NSA spying scandal. The film is about a documentarian and a reporter travelling to Hong Kong to meet Edward Snowden. The very subject of the film has pushed the boundaries of documentary filmmaking, taking the evolution ahead in this genre.



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