Documentary artists use the genre to celebrate, explore, or reexamine the past, which often means walking the fine line between factual reporting on some of the most extraordinary (and dangerous) people, places and conversations, and creating what is, ultimately, a piece of entertainment.
A documentary can bring journalistic reporting to life—and to wider audiences—in a way words on a page often cannot. But the question of how to make a non-fictional story compelling on the screen, particularly when the archive simply doesn’t exist, or the subject’s identity needs protection, is a key artistic consideration.
Beyond the pivotal talking-head scenario that has defined the genre, recent films have sought a more active role in bringing non-fiction stories to life. The methods a documentary director can or should use to tell their story, and where ethical red lines exist, have dominated conversations surrounding the genre lately—as seen in the controversies over deepfake technology in Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain and re-recorded lines in Speer Goes to Hollywood.