Rethinking Documentary Form

Rethinking Documentary Form: Internet and Creation of New Communities of Viewers.

Stefano Odorico


My paper is an examination of how contemporary non-fiction web productions (including cross-platforms, interactive documentaries and locative film) allow direct contact with the ‘external world’ and between all the subjects involved in the textual and contextual structure. The traditional domain of documentary filmmaking linked to traditional technologies and forms is greatly changing; new documentary forms based on the internet, include in their structure the presence of forums, areas devoted to open discussion, applications for mobile phone and connection to the social world – Myspace, Facebook, newsletters, RSS feeds and twittering.


Thanks to these ‘web-features’, the spectator/user, utilising platforms such as Gaza-Sderot, Life in Spite of Everything (Al Muzayyen and Elmaliah, 2008), From Zero – People Rebuilding Life after the Emergency (Strocchi, 2009) and the very innovative Prison Valley – The Prison Industry (Dufresne and Brault, 2010), builds his/her opinion on the topic treated and experiences the actual opportunity to work on the development of the film itself. All this also implies, in terms of the construction of a value of truth, the inevitable creation of a community which shares opinions and information with the external world (a community which may also continue to exist outside the platform).


Web documentary makers can generate discussions with their viewers/users through those communities and promote the distribution of the content (and considerations on reality about the topics discussed) outside the platform at different levels, for example to ‘old’ mass-media, such as newspapers, radio and TV. Interactive documentaries represent a new mass experience of vision/interaction that moves away from the canonical relationship with ordinary media in order to create a different way to address and dialogue with the spectator who, for the most part, belongs to a community in constant expansion.


My paper will show how this communal expansion often influences the project itself, ‘forcing’ the director to consider new ways of development and to use different strategies of combining images and sound design. From this perspective, crossing the boundaries between classic cinema and internet, we can borrow a term from the web practice and talk of ‘(partial)-open source documentaries’).


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