• The polar opposite of Direct Cinema and Cinema Vérité is what is known as the essay film. Like a written essay, the essay film is about the filmmaker’s opinion on a given issue. Specifically, the filmmaker states a thesis early on, and then goes on to provide supporting evidence throughout the film.
• All sides of an issue are not necessarily shown. If they are, it is usually designed to expose or trip up the opposing party.
• The biggest criticism of this approach is that it is not balanced. Proponents say that there is no need for "balance" because these films are, in essence, essays—the filmmaker's opinion based on the way he interprets the evidence.
• Michael Moore uses this approach in his movies. In fact, most of the successful documentary films of recent years are essay type films.
Possible models or narrative strategies:
Expository: lecturing, overtly didactic, e.g. with a personal presenter or an explanatory voice-over.
Observational: like a "fly on the wall," the camera, microphone and film crew seem not to be disturbing the scene or even to be noticed by the participants.
Participatory or interactive: the film crew takes part in the action or chain of events.
Reflexive: the film exposes and discusses its own role as a film (e.g. the ethics or conditions of filmmaking) alongside the treatment of the case or subject.
Performative: the film crew creates many of the events and situations to be filmed by their own intervention or through events carried out for the sake of the film.
Poetic: the aesthetic aspects, the qualities of the form and the sensual appeals are predominant.
From Bill Nichols' work, e.g. Introduction to Documentary (Indiana University Press, 2001).
Using the above criteria, how would you define your documentary? Say, according to Bill Nichols (2001), there are six basic types of documentary; explain them and then say where yours fits.
Look at the Screenonline pages for documentary to give yourself some background:
Look at the purposes of documentary – where does yours fit?
‘It’s not so much what you get in the shooting but what you do with it afterwards’ Paul Watson doc maker
How does voice-over, selection of material, use of experts, hidden camera footage, found footage, sound selection of images, and use of editing construct a particular version of reality – and whose interests does this serve?
Why do audiences ‘trust’ documentaries?
Think of the problems you’ve faced in making your documentary. Where couldn’t you film? Who couldn’t you talk to? Why? What were the restrictions placed on this project?
Who is your audience? A niche audience? In what context would it be shown?