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Documentary Storytelling, 4th Edition by Sheila Curran Bernard

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Chapter 13 Narration and Voice-Over

Narration is not the worst thing to happen to a documentary, but bad narration might be, which might explain why so many filmmakers want to avoid it at all costs. We’ve all seen films that were talky, preachy, hyperventilated, and dull. But there’s also narration (or extensive voice-over commentary) that makes films funny, sarcastic, spare, poetic, and elegant. Enron, Super Size Me, Grizzly Man, and Born into Brothels, among many recent films, have effective narration. Enron ’s narration is the most traditional, in that it’s spoken by an unseen person, the actor Peter Coyote, who has no identity in the film other than to provide information that moves the story along. Super Size Me, narrated in voice-over and ...

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