A docudrama (or documentary drama) is a genre of radio and television programming, feature film, and staged theatre, which features dramatized re-enactments of actual events. On stage, it is sometimes known as documentary theatre.
In the core elements of its story a docudrama strives to adhere to known historical facts, while allowing a greater or lesser degree of dramatic license in peripheral details, and where there are gaps in the historical record. Dialogue may include the actual words of real-life people, as recorded in historical documents. Docudrama producers sometimes choose to film their reconstructed events in the actual locations in which the historical events occurred.
A docudrama, in which historical fidelity is the keynote, is generally distinguished from a film merely "based on true events", a term which implies a greater degree of dramatic license; and from the concept of "historical drama", a broader category which may also encompass entirely fictionalized action taking place in historical settings or against the backdrop of historical events.
As a portmanteau, docudrama is sometimes confused with docufiction. However, unlike docufiction—which is essentially a documentary filmed in real time, incorporating some fictional elements—docudrama is filmed at a time subsequent to the events portrayed.
Docudramas tend to demonstrate some or most of the following characteristics
Docudramas are distinct from historical fiction, in which the historical setting is a mere backdrop for a plot involving fictional characters.
The impulse to incorporate historical material into literary texts has been an intermittent feature of literature in the west since its earliest days. Aristotle's theory of art is based on the use of putatively historical events and characters. Especially after the development of modern mass-produced literature, there have been genres that relied on history or then-current events for material. English Renaissance drama, for example, developed subgenres specifically devoted to dramatizing recent murders and notorious cases of witchcraft.
However, docudrama as a separate category belongs to the second half of the twentieth century. After World War II, Louis de Rochemont, creator of The March of Time , became a producer at 20th Century Fox. There he brought the newsreel aesthetic to films, producing a series of movies based upon real events using a realistic style that became known as semidocumentary. The films ( The House on 92nd Street , Boomerang , 13 Rue Madeleine ) were widely imitated, and the style soon became used even for completely-fictional stories, such as The Naked City . Perhaps the most significant of the semidocumentary films was He Walked by Night , based upon serial killer Erwin Walker. Jack Webb had a supporting role in the movie and struck up a friendship with the LAPD consultant, Sergeant Marty Wynn. The film and his relationship with Wynn inspired Webb to create what became one of the most famous docudramas in history: Dragnet .
The influence of New Journalism tended to create a license for authors to treat with literary techniques material that might in an earlier age have been approached in a purely journalistic way. Both Truman Capote and Norman Mailer were influenced by this movement, and Capote's In Cold Blood is arguably the most famous example of the genre.
Some docudrama examples for American television include Brian's Song (1971), and Roots (1977). Brian's Song is the biography of Brian Piccolo, a Chicago Bears football player who died at a young age after battling cancer. Roots depicts the life of a slave and his family.
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This list is ordered by release date.
A legal drama, or a courtroom drama, is a genre of film and television that generally focuses on narratives regarding legal practice and the justice system. The American Film Institute (AFI) defines "courtroom drama" as a genre of film in which a system of justice plays a critical role in the film's narrative. Legal dramas have also followed the lives of the fictional attorneys, defendants, plaintiffs, or other persons related to the practice of law present in television show or film. Legal drama is distinct from police crime drama or detective fiction, which typically focus on police officers or detectives investigating and solving crimes. The focal point of legal dramas, more often, are events occurring within a courtroom, but may include any phases of legal procedure, such as jury deliberations or work done at law firms. Some legal dramas fictionalize real cases that have been litigated, such as the play-turned-movie, Inherit the Wind, which fictionalized the Scopes Monkey Trial. As a genre, the term "legal drama" is typically applied to television shows and films, whereas legal thrillers typically refer to novels and plays.
Louisiana Story is a 1948 American black-and-white drama film directed by Robert J. Flaherty. Although the events and characters depicted are fictional and the film was commissioned by the Standard Oil Company to promote its drilling ventures in the Louisiana bayous, it is often misidentified as a documentary film when in fact it is a docufiction. Its script was written by Frances H. Flaherty and Robert J. Flaherty.
A mockumentary or docucomedy is a type of movie or television show depicting fictional events but presented as a documentary.
True crime is a nonfiction literary, podcast, and film genre in which the author examines an actual crime and details the actions of real people.
Artistic license refers to deviation from fact or form for artistic purposes. It can include alteration of the conventions of grammar or language, or the rewording of pre-existing text.
A biographical film, or biopic, is a film that dramatizes the life of a non-fictional or historically-based person or people. Such films show the life of a historical person and the central character's real name is used. They differ from docudrama films and historical drama films in that they attempt to comprehensively tell a single person's life story or at least the most historically important years of their lives.
Peter Watkins is an English film and television director. He was born in Norbiton, Surrey, lived in Sweden, Canada and Lithuania for many years, and now lives in France. He is one of the pioneers of docudrama. His films present pacifist and radical ideas in a nontraditional style. He mainly concentrates his works and ideas around the mass media and our relation/participation to a movie or television documentary.
A historical drama is a work set in a past time period, usually used in the context of film and television. Historical drama includes historical fiction and romances, adventure films, and swashbucklers. A period piece may be set in a vague or general era such as the Middle Ages or a specific period such as the Roaring Twenties.
Narrative film, fictional film or fiction film is a film that tells a fictional or fictionalized story, event or narrative. In this style of film, believable narratives and characters help convince the audience that the unfolding fiction is real. Lighting and camera movement, among other cinematic elements, have become increasingly important in these films. Great detail goes into the screenplays of narratives, as these films rarely deviate from the predetermined behaviours and lines of the classical style of screenplay writing to maintain a sense of realism. Actors must deliver dialogue and action in a believable way, so as to persuade the audience that the film is real life.
A semidocumentary is a form of book, film, or television program presenting a fictional story that incorporates many factual details or actual events, or which is presented in a manner similar to a documentary. Stylistically, it has certain similarities to Italian Neorealism, such as the use of location shooting and employing non-actors in secondary roles. However, the viewer is not intended to mistake a semidocumentary for a real documentary; the fictional elements are too prominent.
A pseudo-documentary is a film or video production that takes the form or style of a documentary film but does not portray real events. Rather, scripted and fictional elements are used to tell the story. The pseudo-documentary, unlike the related mockumentary, is not always intended as satire or humor. It may use documentary camera techniques but with fabricated sets, actors, or situations, and it may use digital effects to alter the filmed scene or even create a wholly synthetic scene.
The non-fiction novel is a literary genre which, broadly speaking, depicts real historical figures and actual events woven together with fictitious conversations and uses the storytelling techniques of fiction. The non-fiction novel is an otherwise loosely defined and flexible genre. The genre is sometimes referred to using the slang term "faction", a portmanteau of the words fact and fiction.
Mick Jackson is an English film director and television producer. Between 1973 and 1987, Jackson directed many documentary and drama productions for BBC TV and Channel 4. Relocating to Hollywood, he directed feature films, including The Bodyguard starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. In 2010, Jackson won an Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special for the dramatised biographical TV film Temple Grandin.
Docufiction, often confused with docudrama, is the cinematographic combination of documentary and fiction, this term often meaning narrative film. It is a film genre which attempts to capture reality such as it is and which simultaneously introduces unreal elements or fictional situations in narrative in order to strengthen the representation of reality using some kind of artistic expression.
Fiction generally is a narrative form, in any medium, consisting of people, events, or places that are imaginary—in other words, not based strictly on history or fact. In its most narrow usage, fiction refers to written narratives in prose and often specifically novels, though also novellas and short stories. More broadly, fiction has come to encompass imaginary narratives expressed in any form, including not just writings but also live theatrical performances, films, television programs, radio dramas, comics, role-playing games, and video games.
In film and television, drama is a category of narrative fiction intended to be more serious than humorous in tone. Drama of this kind is usually qualified with additional terms that specify its particular super-genre, macro-genre, or micro-genre, such as soap opera, police crime drama, political drama, legal drama, historical drama, domestic drama, teen drama, and comedy-drama (dramedy). These terms tend to indicate a particular setting or subject-matter, or else they qualify the otherwise serious tone of a drama with elements that encourage a broader range of moods.
Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives is a 2013 pseudo-documentary first aired on American TV network Discovery Channel about the possible survival of the prehistoric shark. The story, with only short disclaimers at the beginning and ending indicating that it is fictional, revolves around the loss of a fishing boat and all of its crew off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa and an ensuing investigation that points to an attack by a member of the species megalodon, a prehistoric shark thought to be long extinct. Its format is that of a documentary that includes accounts of "professionals" in various fields related to Megalodon. It follows a similar format to another docufiction aired by Discovery Channel, Mermaids: The Body Found.
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