Documentary film brings all the power of big-screen narrative cinema to the art of non-fiction storytelling. And it is an art, even if the subject matter is factual. At its kernel, documentary is about story; telling a good story and telling it well. Compelling, well-told narratives have the ability to raise awareness and understanding of a particular subject or issue and as such can be a powerful tool for positive change.
A multitude of different approaches to documentary are available. You may choose to use a presenter, voice-over narration or perhaps no words at all. Most importantly, you need to choose which style suits your intended message – which will naturally be dictated by the subject matter.
More than most other genres, documentary is a hybrid form. It weaves together diverse strands of other cinematic forms (exposition, reportage, observation, participation, realism, guerilla, et cetera). Unlike with narrative cinema, no hard and fast rules dictate how a documentary comes together. For this reason it is among the most liberating and at the same time complicated formats to work in.