What is the purpose of a documentary?

by Jenny

Question: I am doing a project on documentaries and your website has been a lot of help. All I really need to find now is the true purpose of documentaries. Thanks for all the help

Desktop Documentaries: Thanks for your question Jenny. The purpose of documentaries varies from film to film. There are as many answers to your question as there are filmmakers!

Many documentary filmmakers attempt to change or improve society in some way with their documentaries. Their goal is to bring to light a certain cause or injustice with the hope that their film will help galvanize the masses to demand change. An example might be a documentary on a humanitarian crisis in Sudan.

For other documentaries, the goal is simply to entertain or delight the audience in some way. These are called human interest stories. Perhaps there is a unique character in your town you'd like to profile. This documentary might simply be an observational film, not to judge, simply to show and allow the audience to make their own judgement.

Other documentaries may attempt to uncover a hidden truth or mystery.

Or the goal may be to profile someone famous like Abraham Lincoln. So the purpose would be to educate.

Perhaps the filmmaker was fascinated with their family life and wanted to share the quirkiness of their family's story. So the purpose may be to reveal some truth about society through their family's story -- not necessarily to change society, but rather to reveal and enlighten.

These are just a few examples of the purpose of documentaries. As you can see, it is not a simple answer!

Any one else have ideas to contribute toward this question? Please comment below.

Comments for What is the purpose of a documentary?

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Nov 07, 2013
Good information
by: Anonymous

this site was helpful for me to find out about the purpose of a documentary.

Apr 27, 2014
Purposeful explaining
by: Anonymous

While the underlying end goal of a documentary might well be one of the things you mentioned in your answer, the simpler explanation to the basic question, "What is the purpose of a documentary?" is: "To show what something is like or how something is/was."

This is really a great site and I like it!

Nov 23, 2014
Not Very Helpful
by: Anonymous

In my opinion the answer given did not have very much relevance to the question. for this to fulfill the question fully the answer had to also include a introduction of what documentaries are all about such as, what would happen if we didn't have any documentaries. The answer also did not give the full purpose of various documentaries, it only gave information on entertaining documentaries, or improving society documentaries. For this to be a good answer it needed to include a wider range of documentaries, for example if I was studying a history documentary and wanted to know the purpose of it, this would come in no use to me. However, this answer did have some positives, it gave a very thorough answer for the documentaries it did outline and I highly applaud you for your top effort. thanks for the effort. better luck next time.

May 18, 2015
Great Answer
by: Anonymous

Nice answer, i think that pretty much sums all of it up. i will be coming to this site more often!

Nov 24, 2015
Purpose - Video Documentary
by: Anonymous

I am a teacher and I am requiring my students to do a documentary on how to practice the Church's Preferential option for the Poor and through your ideas here, i am enlightened how to go about it. thanx a lot.

Aug 11, 2016
i want to know the purpose of a documentary
by: Nicolas O Botlhale

thank U very much, im a student & i want to do a documentry

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