What are the four basic approaches to documentary cinema?  How are  these approaches  blended and reinterpreted by contemporary documentary filmmakers?



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Documentary filmmaker and film theorist posited four different approaches to documentary filmmaking, referred to as "modes": observational, expositional, poetic and reflexive. These modes refer to the methods and techniques used in filmmaking, as well as the presentation of the content and its reception by an audience. Some films manage to contain more than one mode. The French film "Night and Fog" for example could be said to be all four modes: poetic (because it contains poetic language and imagery), observational (because it documents the current condtion and locations of the German concentration camps), expositional (because it provides archival images of the war years), and reflexive (as it poses questions about how artists and writers shoudl respond to this history). Nichols eventually expanded these categories to include additional modes (like participatory and performative) but these main four are the most significant.


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