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Categories: Features

By Lucinda Holt

It seems there is a documentary to suit everyone nowadays. They used to be seen as stuffy and rather clinical but now documentaries are punchy and controversial. There was a time when the documentary was seen as more scholastic and a little dull.  Now they have become so popular, we are inundated with them whether it is on television or word of mouth. It seems the documentary genre is finally getting the recognition it deserves. What has made them so popular and why are more people turning to them?

It was the late 90s when I first took an interest in documentaries, Nick Broomfield’s Kurt & Courtney really made me see that people could take a controversial subject matter and bravely ask provocative questions. I loved the idea of a one man or extremely small crew, it just gives it an edge and makes you aware that you are watching something real and not scripted.

Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends brought the documentary into the mainstream; suddenly people were watching something other than soaps. They generated a lot of gossip and gave insights into these strange little worlds you didn’t know existed.

With the early noughties the documentary became something a lot more political. Michael Moore’s Bowling For Columbine questioned the American gun laws and Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me delved into the dark side of the fast food industry and opened your eyes about what you were really eating. It seemed people were embracing the documentary and seeking out answers to whatever questions they had. Being informed on world events was no longer left to the news and everyone wanted to become more aware of what kind of world we live in. They made us question the establishment more than ever.

The popularity of social networking gave way to a new kind of documentary. Catfish gained young fans all over the world with its dark tale of online dating. It was so popular it spawned an MTV series and seemed to make documentaries cool and accessible to a younger audience. catfish-uk-poster1

With on-demand services such as Netflix and LoveFilm, documentaries are much more accessible to the general public. Something that was once specialised is now easily available to all and there is such a wide variety, finding something of interest is very easy.

New technology has given total amateurs a chance to make films. Years ago a video camera was an expensive luxury but now you can record videos on your phone and upload to the many video sharing sites online. Anyone can be a filmmaker in this day and age, just choose your subject and upload. I think we have all become documentary filmmakers unknowingly as we document our lives online by uploading pictures, tweeting updates and basically just giving the world an inside look at our everyday lives.

We share more about ourselves now more than ever and I feel that is why we have come to love documentaries so much. We all have a genuine interest in the lives of others and the voyeur in us likes that we can take our pick into what world we want to be a part of for a couple of hours or so.

Posted on Apr 11, 2014

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