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7.1.Documentary and entertainment

David Lipson et Zarachy Baqué

The purpose of this special issue of InMedia is to further the understanding of the documentary by linking it to the notion of entertainment, which has so far been underexplored in the expanding field of documentary studies. Our aim is thus to study the strategies and forms used by documentary filmmakers when they willingly choose to inject entertainment into their film.

  • 1 Bill Nichols, Representing Reality p. 29

The documentary, as a distinct film form, has often been associated with what Bill Nichols termed the “discourses of sobriety”1 and scholarly works on the subject have emphasized the serious political or social nature of the documentary, with a special focus on the rhetoric and politics of documentaries.

  • 2 Delli Carpini and Williams, After Broadcast News, p. 164
  • 3 Delli Carpini and Williams p. 10 and following.

Starting in the second half of the 20th century, “hard news” found in the news media was distinctly separate from the “soft news” in the entertainment media. In that respect, the documentary film form, whether for cinema or for TV, was principally meant to inform its audiences about topics they were not aware of. The technological and esthetic evolution of the documentary did not really have an impact on the public perception of what documentaries could do, as argued by Brian Winston, who contends that Direct Cinema is the continuation of the Griersonian heritage rather than a radical break from it. However in the last thirty years the media environment has considerably changed, blurring the lines between hard and soft news, as Delli Carpini and Willams clearly affirm: “…the form and content of news and entertainment [have] come to resemble each other more closely.”2 These changes, mainly in the domain of television, brought about a new hybrid form that combines traditional news with entertainment, a form known as “infotainment”. If the authors now state that the term “infotainment” has “outlived whatever usefulness [it] might have once had3” historically it was widely used to describe influential TV shows such as The Daily Show or The Colbert Report. In retrospect, it seems that the lack of a comprehensive definition that would deal with what these new forms of entertainment and information media could do is linked to the historical evolution of their distribution platforms.

  • 4 Michael Moore, “13 Rules for Making Documentary Films”, The Huffington Post, 1nsiderably changed, blurring the lines ber_rpso">4 oore, “13 Rules for Making Dnochanrnur "docTitle">(...)

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