Chapter 5Documentary Language

Technology and Screen Language

People made the first moving pictures in the mid-1890s from what was immediately around them. As they developed the tools—cameras, film stocks, sound facilities, and editing equipment—film’s language and its ability to move hearts and minds improved, too. All this time the audience’s grasp of screen language was evolving, so filmmakers needed an ever more sophisticated narrative shorthand. It is this evolution rather than the enormity of documentary history that we explore in this chapter.

In just over a dozen excellent films—ones today’s audiences still find moving—you will get the sweep of how technology and documentary developed in response to filmmakers’ need to say something impassioned. ...

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