Evolution of Documentary Filmmaking in the 20th Century

Documentary film making probably began as the “newsreel.”

Early in the century, without television and limited radio news broadcast, the newsreel was the only source of visual news available to the public. With film crews set up all over the world, newsreel crews made documentaries about the wars, public officials, world leaders and celebrities.

Reporting facts and news quickly was the beginning of the documentary as we know it. As television and movies evolved, the documentary took on other roles. Documentaries began exploring famous people’s lives and history. They also began, at times, to take on roles of political propaganda. Hitler has had a couple of filmmakers paid to make him look powerful. Leni Reiftenstahl is most famous for that.

Documentaries reached out to the human heartstrings bringing stories of other cultures and peoples into our lives. They made us aware of nature’s powers and beauty. Documentaries can bring joy and sorrow, hope and humanity, life and death.

Non fictional films open up a world of teaching and knowledge, of courage and surprise. Documentaries show us the human side, or lack thereof, of world leaders. They can also educate us and our people to help us live safer, healthier lives.

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