chapter  5
22 Pages

Documentary Films as Primary and Secondary Sources

The 1970s British comedy program Monty Python’s Flying Circus frequently made use of the documentary format to purvey its unique style of comedy, playing the dry, authoritative tone of the format against the absurdity of the subject matter. One particular segment, “Storage Jars,” lampooned the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) ability to make documentaries on just about any subject, no matter how dull or prosaic, for a captive audience, given the lack of competition for viewers in the days before cable television. But documentary films need not be boring-even “Storage Jars” was pretty good-and they have great potential to reconstruct and interpret the past uncluttered by intentionally fictional elements.