A documentary film is one of several creative modes, including narrative fiction and experimental avant-garde. Documentaries have a purpose, a point of view and a focus, and they evolve from the training process, either as a scriptwriter or spontaneous. Documentaries are limited to reality or current affairs.

Most of the production requirements for documentaries refer to the fact that there are no sets, no actors are used, and real people are played, not actors.

Throughout history, documentaries have been recognized for having a great impact on cultural meanings. Many film schools around the world teach the art of documentary making. Schools and classes teach to understand the fundamental aesthetic tools of documentary film, such as the operation of the camera, sound, structure and also the interview.

Classes will often include exercises leading to the production of a documentary film project, so that students can learn directing and production skills, as well as the various types of documentaries.

There are always issues that both students and teachers deal with in documentary cinema that have to do with the development of ideas, pre-production and production itself.

Students in documentary film classes watch video segments that represent major trends in the history of documentary making. Usually there are guest filmmakers who lecture in the courses to guide and provide further education.

Documentaries are a very challenging form of filmmaking, often controversial. Historically, the genre begins with the first films of the Lumière brothers known as “current affairs films”, and ends with the latest postmodern explorations. The classics include Flaherty, Grierson, Riefenstahl, Rouch, Vertov, and Wiseman, along with contemporary works. The documentary The course examines how changes in social and political realities, changing technology, as well as people’s personalities and talents, continually redefine what the term documentary means. Both ethical and aesthetic issues are also taken into account.

Documentaries often present challenges for cinematographers who typically must work alone or in small teams. They must learn to capture meaningful and beautifully framed images during low-budget and often chaotic circumstances that generally surround film making. Typically, the emphasis is on cinema verité filming and lighting with very small equipment. Some aspects of the digital camera are shared with students as they work.

Documentary films are also a very popular art form. The awards take place for documentaries and many are often covered by film critics, as demonstrated as early as 1942, when there were four winners, including: The Battle of Midway; Kokoda front line; Moscow fights back; and Prelude to war. In 2009, a recent documentary on military medicine, Fighting for Life, is expected to win awards.

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