A documentary comes up as a broad term applied to the description of a relatively non-fiction movie whose intent is to capture reality in some way. Directors make documentaries with an aim of bringing their viewers into completely new experiences by way of presenting informative facts about real places, people, and events portrayed with the help of actual artifacts and images. In the process of classifying films, factuality on itself does not apply in defining a documentary film. It all depends on what the filmmaker does with all the factual elements, arranging them into a perfect narration that ends up as both true and compelling (Meerstein 16). With reference to the classification of a film as a documentary, there are a number of things put into consideration.
To understand some of the important features and aspects of a documentary, a reference to the film Food, Inc. is used in this document. Food, Inc. is a documentary film released in 2008. It was meant to expose all the flawed practices characterizing the current relationship between the consumers, as well as the government regulatory agencies, – with specific attention to the food supply system. Food, Inc. highlights the fact that the national food supply in this generation is under the control of a couple of renowned corporations whose primary concern is making profits (Dargis N.p). Food, Inc. elaborates how these firms prioritize on profitability at the expense of more important aspects such as consumer health, the safety of the workers, the American farmers’ livelihood, as well as environmental conservation. This documentary perfectly reveals the shocking truths about what consumers eat, how that food goes through production, what the nation has become, as well as where the entire situation is leading.
According to Henrik Juel, all documentaries are not the same. One applicable way for classifying documentaries is on the basis of reflecting upon the narrative strategies used by the director. In light of the above, Food, Inc. can be described as expository due to its highly didactic nature. Additionally, it surfaces as both interactive and participatory because the director emphasized on the crew taking part in the action of the entire film (Juel 11).
Another way of determining the kind of a documentary is by taking a look at its emphasis on conveying truth. Essentially, it is a common expectation for all documentaries to own up to the obligation of shedding light on some truth. However, there are various ways through which this aspect materializes. In light of this, Food, Inc. can be identified with coherence because it constitutes a proper and non-contradictory wholesome argument. More so, Food, Inc. identifies itself with the aspect of illumination theory of truth. The film enlightens, seeks to let people see and understand more, as well as inspiring its viewers with more insight on the matter it implores.
Another important aspect of documentaries is the voice they have on the subjects they implore. The voice of any documentary is what helps in presenting a case or conveying the point of appropriate point of view. Documentaries intend to persuade using their appeal, the strength of their argument, or simply, their voice (Nichols 43). Film voice aspect exists in various forms.
In the Food, Inc. documentary, the invention is one way through which its voice stands out. Invention in this case refers to the use of evidence in support of an argument. The voice in this documentary partly comes to life due to the presence of inartistic proof provided by the provision of samples, physical evidence and witnesses in the food matters it implores. Another aspect that brings about the voice in a documentary is memory. Essentially, memory holds a crucial importance in creating the voice of a film (Nichols 58). Memory exists in various manners such as involving the placement of various components of speech in different key parts of the entire set. In the Food, Inc. documentary, memory is used a lot. One such example is in the opening scene where an unidentified voice says, “There is no season in the American supermarket.”
Delivery also plays an important role in emphasizing the voice of a documentary. Other than the general use of gesture and other non-verbal communication strategies, the flow of idea is essential for delivery as well. In light of the above, Voice in the Food, Inc. documentary is emphasized by the use of real life regalia such as the Wal-Mart food store which many people can relate (Dargis N.p). In terms of eloquence, having the live contribution of people such as Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser plays a significant role in the delivery. Both authors have priory done substantial research and production of literary material on the matters highlighted in the documentary.
While discussing documentaries, persuasion comes into play since the primary aim of documentaries is revealing a truth that its audience may not know. In light of this, the various means of persuasion surface – Ethos, Pathos, and Lagos (Nichols 50).
Ethos refers to the credibility of the subject. In the Food, Inc. film, it is represented by the use of renowned contributors of food matters as the directors of the film. Michel Pollan and Eric Schlosser, authors of “In Defense of Food” and “Fast Food Nation”, helped in directing the documentary.
Pathos refers to the emotional aspect of persuasion. All the relatively thematic and disturbing images used in the Food, Inc. documentary aim at achieving this kind of persuasion. For example, every person who watched it has a better understanding of the effects of e-Coli bacteria compared to a person who have just heard about it but not seen a virtual illustration.
Lagos points towards the logical persuasion that induces critical reasoning. In the entire Food, Inc. film, right from the initial statement about the ever on season American supermarkets, the director emphasized on speech that puts reasoning at one’s fingertips.
Just like in any other fields, fallacies are common in documentary filming too. In as much as persuasion is a generally expected theme in any documentary film, it is easy to deduce that in the Food, Inc. film, there exists the fallacy of Appeal to Pathos. It was a good idea to include the works of Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser. However, bringing them to direct the documentary was rather a fallacious move relating to the appeal to Pathos.
Dargis, Manohla. “Meet Your New Farmer: Hungry Corporate Giant.” 11 June 2009. The New York Times. 2 April 2015 <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/12/movies/12food.html?_r=0>.
Juel, Henrik. “Defining Documentary Film.” A Danish Journal of Film Studies (2006): 5-14.
Meerstein, Isabelle. “An interview with Bertrand Tavernier on documentary filmmaking.” A Danish Journal of Film Studies (2006): 15-24.
Nichols, Bill. Introduction to Documentary. 2nd Edition. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010.
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