Documentaries are complex visual or audio storytelling forms that apply creative treatments to actuality, in the words of documentary pioneer John Grierson. Sometimes this definition has had a slightly different wording: “the creative interpretation of actuality.” The slight difference gives some sense of how elusive defining documentary can be. Despite the challenge, the consideration of how documentary can be defined both clarifies how we make sense of any single instance that bears the term documentary and advances how seeking a definition has provoked talented creators and interpreters of documentary stories to defy the definition and, in the process, rebuild it.

Documentaries can be very short or very long, they can be silent film or digital images, they can be images accompanied by different kinds of sound, ...

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