Friday, 21 October 2011

Reviewing Documentary Television

Documentary is definitely the genre of television that fascinates me the most, mainly because it comes in such a range of forms and that in can capture a person’s creativity and thoughts so cleverly.

Because my life is revolving around documentary television at the moment, I thought I’d review three of the types;

Expository Documentary

Although common, this is by far my favourite type of documentary. As a viewer I love being told a point of view and being taken on this journey of discovery. The topic can be absolutely anything and can so quickly change your opinion. It’s also a type of documentary that I enjoy making, I think the idea of a omnipresent voice, gives the director such a huge power to really get out there and change things, and although other documentary types allow you to do this, this genre allows you to be a bit more “in-your-face” about what you are trying to achieve.

Observational Documentary

There may be a fine line between reality television, docu-soups and observation documentary, but I feel it’s one that is constantly crossed. I have to confess I have a huge, uncontrollable passion, for Observation Documentary, or “Fly-on-the-Wall” documentaries. Mainly in the fact that if you name any type of these programmes, I’ve probably seen them all. I think it’s the best type of documentary to just sit and watch for entertainment. One of my favourites is the modern version of Paul Watson’s The Family, one that many argue to be the very first docu-soap. The modern version, commissioned by Channel version about a year ago is a truly fascinating look into the twenty-first century family, one that I found myself returning to watch week after week. The families that Channel 4 followed really were completely normal; nothing much going on, but work, school and a few arguments here and there. They really captured the normal life, which really is supposed to be the whole point of the observational documentary. Now-a-days the idea of observation documentary has more of less completely moved into the reality television band, which still completely captivates me as a viewer, but as a film maker, I think The Family is a perfect version of observational documentary, not to mention a fascinating case study.

Poetic Documentary

Although I love the difference a poetic documentary can bring, as a viewer I really struggle to watch them. I find the whole idea very confusing concept and also I seem to have this need to hear people speak. Hearing people’s inner thoughts and opinions is what, I feel makes a documentary. It’s what separates documentary from all other genres, so as a viewer it’s something I find dreadfully annoying. However, I think as a filmmaker I can’t deny my inner need to make a poetic documentary. I feel that it allows you to take a normal documentary, which can at times be incredibly formal and boring and make it something beautiful and unique. I think it almost gives you this “poetic license” from which you can get away with a lot more.
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