Documentary films are films that document reality. The term "documentary" was first used in the film review Moana (1926) by Robert Flaherty, written by The Moviegoer, pseudonym John Grierson, in the New York Sun on February 8, 1926.
In France, the term documentary is used for all non-fiction films, including travel films and educational films. Based on this definition, the first films were all documentaries. They record everyday things, such as trains entering the station.
basically, documentaries represent reality. This means that a documentary means re-presenting the facts that exist in life.
Box Office analysts have noted that the film genre has become increasingly successful in theaters through films such as Super Size Me, March of the Penguins and An Inconvenient Truth. When compared to dramatic narrative films, documentaries are usually made on a much lower budget. This is quite attractive for film companies because only with a limited cinema release can generate a sizeable profit.
The development of documentaries has been quite rapid since the era of cinema verité. Notable films such as Errol Morris's The Thin Blue Line stylized re-enactments, and Michael Moore: Roger & Me put the director's control much more interpretively. In fact, the commercial success of these documentaries may be due to a shift in narrative style in the documentary. This raises the debate whether a film like this can really be called a documentary; critics sometimes refer to such films as mondo films or docu-doubles. However, the directing manipulation of documentary subjects has been around since the Flaherty era, and has become somewhat endemic to the genre.
The recent success of the documentary genre, and its emergence on DVD, has made documentaries financially profitable even without a theatrical release. However, documentary film funding remains exclusive, and over the past decade the broadcast market's biggest exhibition opportunities have emerged. This is what makes documentary filmmakers interested in maintaining their style, and also influences broadcasters who have become their biggest donors. Modern documentaries overlap with television programs, with the emergence of reality shows that are often considered as documentaries but are in fact often a fictional stories. There are also the making-of documentary productions that present the production process of a film or video game. Documentaries created for promotional purposes are closer to advertising than classic documentaries.
Modern lightweight digital video cameras and computerized editing have made a huge contribution to documentary filmmakers, commensurate with the low cost of equipment. The first film made with these facilities was the documentary by Martin Kunert and Eric Manes: Voices of Iraq, in which 150 DV cameras were sent to Iraq throughout the war and distributed among Iraqis to record themselves.
In its development, a new term emerged, namely Dokudrama. Docudrama is a documentary genre in which several parts of the film are directed or arranged in advance with detailed planning. Dokudrama emerged as a solution to the fundamental problem of documentary films, namely to film events that had already happened.
A compilation film was created in 1927 by Esfir Shub with a film called The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty. Subsequent examples include Point of Order (1964) directed by Emile de Antonio regarding McCarthy's messages and The Atomic Cafe which is composed of footage produced by the US government on the safety of nuclear radiation.