chapter  2
46 Pages

A Brief History of Documentary

Movements and Modes
ByBroderick Fox

This chapter introduces specific technological shifts and cultural movements that have precipitated particular documentary forms, each offering potential structures and formal approaches. Although fictional media dominate much of popular culture today, the history of motion pictures began not with fictional scenarios but with the documentation of daily life. The early years of motion picture development saw a number of individuals around the globe inventing competing systems of photography and exhibition, including Emil and Max Skladanowsky's Bioskop, Thomas Edison's Kinetograph, and Louis and Auguste LumiEre's Cinematographe. In the 1920s, following the Russian Revolution of 1917, Soviet filmmakers, including Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov, became international voices, proclaiming a fervent sense of cinema's social utility and proposing distinctive formal approaches to the cinematic treatment of reality. The key to successful contemporary documentary study and practice lies in having a conversance with past strategies and practices of representing reality, along with the social, cultural, and political contexts that facilitated these modes of production.