Documentary Film Analysis

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Lev Tolstoy, the legendary Russian writer, after watching the first ever film in his life, commented: “What a wonderful instrument this could be in schools, for studying geography and the way people live! But it will be prostituted, like everything else” (, 16-01-2016). These words of Tolstoy speak volumes of the potential of film media to provide us with useful information, of the role of the medium in education. The great writer was mentioning about documentary films-an entity yet to evolve at that point of time. Years later in 1922, Flaherty realized the dream of Tolstoy when he made Nanook of the North, depicting the lives of indigenous Inuit people living in Quebec, northern Canada.
Pioneer film-maker
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According to Pare Lorentz, a documentary film is ‘factual film which is dramatic’ 7 (7 Wikipedia). The freeonlinedictionary defines a documentary film as ‘a film or TV program presenting the facts about a person or event’. 8 (8 Dziga Vertov opined that documentaries present "life as it is" (that is, life filmed surreptitiously) and "life caught unaware" (life surprised by the camera). 9 (9 According to Film theorist Paul Rotha, “documentary defines not subject or style, but approach. It denies neither trained actors nor the advantages of staging. It justifies the use of every known technical artifice to gain its effect on the spectator....To the documentary director the appearance of things and people is only superficial. It is the meaning behind the thing and the significance underlying the person that occupy his attention....Documentary approach to cinema differs from that of story-film not in its disregard for craftsmanship, but in the purpose to which that craftsmanship is put. Documentary is a trade just as carpentry or pot-making. The pot-maker makes pots, and the documentarian documentaries." 11 (11 Ellis, Jack C. The Documentary Idea: A Critical History of English-Language Documentary Film and Video. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1989.) (as taken from