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Documentary Formats

Expository documentaries exposes topics or people. These types of documentaries usually
talk directly to an audience.
Conventions that are found in expository media are usually voiceovers addressing the
audience directly and images or film to show what is being said visually. The editing of these
documentaries contain a variety of footage from archive footage, interviews and a presenter
directly talking to you the viewer. The voice over tends to either the voice of authority or
the voice of god.
An example of an expository documentary are David Attenboroughs Life documentaries.
Name (2009) 6 types of documentary. Available at:
(Accessed: 18 April 2016).
National Discovery (2016) Life (bbc 2009) ep 1 challenges of life - David Attenborough documentary. Available at: (Accessed: 19 April 2016).

Observational documentaries show life with no intervention from humans or anything outside
of ordinary life situations for the wildlife. Observational documentaries contain commentaries,
music and re-enactments.
An example of an observational documentary is Knuckle that focuses on Irish bare knuckle
fighting. There is almost no interaction from the camera men and the interviews are very


RISE Films (2011) KNUCKLE trailer. Available at: (Accessed: 19 April 2016).
Special broadcasting service (2011) Available at:
(Accessed: 19 April 2016).

An interactive documentary shows the film makers and events in the documentary. These
type of interviews are based mostly on interviews. These documentaries focus mainly on
those who are being filmed, these documentaries should provide the viewer with a balanced
view of the chosen topic. Archive footage is found often in interactive documentaries as well
as voiceovers.
Living with Michael Jackson is an interactive documentary because the film makers are in the
actual documentary as well as being shown interacting with Michael and interviewing him.
The documentary shows no sign of a script and comes across very real.
R.I.P Michael! (2009) Michael Jacksons personal life [Part 1]. Available at:
(Accessed: 19 April 2016).

Reflective show how the documentary is made and how the film maker takes part in the
documentary. He does this by providing narrative to the documentary. Every bit of detail is
shown in the documentary and nothing is hidden from the audience. (Supposedly) These are
shot in normally a two week timespan with almost no editing done afterwards causing most of
these type of documentaries to contain abusive language and graphic scenes.
Louis Theroux Behind Bars is a reflective documentary because it features all the detail shown
in the documentary. It also contains unfiltered language and graphic scenes to create a sense
of realism.

BBCWorldwide (2010) Mealtimes at San Quentin prison - Louis Theroux behind bars - BBC. Available at: (Accessed: 25 April 2016).

A documentary that is performative shows the emotional aspects to the documentary. These
usually focus on someone and show the audience what it is like to live like them.

In Tongues United the documentary tries to affect the audience emotionally by showing some
difficult to watch scenes. A voice over encouraging what is being demonstrated can be heard,
this form is common in performative documentaries.
Juliana R (2014) Tongues untied clip. Available at: (Accessed: 19 April 2016).

One problem with documentaries is sometimes they are difficult to believe, you have to put
your trust in the film maker and believe what he is saying is truthful. Thanks to modern
editing tools and a deeper understanding on the human psyche it has become easier to
manipulate into believing what they are seeing even if it comes across as illogical. Because of
this some documentaries try to show almost everything with as little editing as possible. Big
Brother is a good example of this because it features real people and is (believed to be)
completely non-scripted.

Big Brother UK (2016) Megan explains herself to big brother | day 10. Available at:
v=MjfdLnQCZME (Accessed: 25 April 2016).

Surface Realism
This focuses on making the documentary feel real. This includes the location, props, setting
and accent used by the person.

Inner and Emotional Realism

This is where the audience identifies with the character because the character is in a
sympathetic situation or acts in a manor realistic to the viewer.

These feature dramatized re-enactments of actual events to help convey to the viewer what
happened and give them more of an understanding of what happened.

Singapore Police Force (2015) Crimewatch 2015 episode 8 part 1. Available at:
v=JSl29_rb0G0 (Accessed: 25 April 2016).

This is normally seen or heard in documentaries used as a way to address the audience and
tell a story. This is usually done through a narrator narrating over footage.
The below link is a link to the BBCs documentary on space and other planets. It is a narrative
documentary because it addresses the audience to tell a story.

LearnStuffNow (2015) Bbc space odyssey voyage to the planets part 2{History space science documentary
documentaries HD 10. Available at: (Accessed: 25 April 2016).



15, laurahillll (2012) Clhart. Available at:

(Accessed: 19 April 2016).


Name (2011) Types of documentary filmmaking. Available at: (Accessed: 19 April


Wilson, P. and profile, V. my complete (2011) Media Literacies for the 21st century. Available at: (Accessed: 19 April