Reframing the Relations of Media, Knowledge, and Innovation in Society
“Creative Documentary Film”: A Cultural Perspective on a Film Genre
Documentary films are commonly expected to transmit a “knowledge grounded on reality.” According to this acceptation, “documentaries address the world in which we live rather than a world imagined by the filmmaker” (Nichols, 2010: xi). One could thus think that this kind of filming production is focused on the objectivity of the elements filmed. However, from the point of view of lots of documentary makers, such as those of the French Documentary Filmmakers Association (Addoc1), what is fundamental is their own subjectivity, and therefore they qualify their work as creative documentary films (documentaires de création). Is this just a provocative contradiction? By combining a discourse analysis held in this professional community and a pragmatic approach of the modes of filming, this article aims at exceeding this aporia.
In France, the institutionalization of this genre took a particular place between the beginning of the 1990s and the middle of the years 2000: festivals, journals, degree courses and public subsidies have been developed. In other words, documentary filmmaking is linked to the debates that it provokes in order to recognize its legitimacy. In this legitimization process, the historiography of the documentary genre plays an important role. According to this, the term “documentary” was first used in a newspaper article by John Grierson in 1926. Nevertheless, several authors (Schändlinger 1998, pp.35-36; Gauthier 2000, p.8; Breschand 2007 p.65) note that the centrality of this article, and thus the position of the founder of the...