Documentary filmmaking
June 15, 2024

Behind the Lens: The Art and Impact of Documentary Filmmaking

By Morkven

Behind the Lens: The Art and Impact of Documentary Filmmaking

Documentary filmmaking is a powerful medium that allows filmmakers to delve into real-life stories, issues, and events in a way that is both informative and emotionally impactful. Through the lens of a camera, filmmakers capture the essence of their subjects and bring them to life for audiences around the world. In this article, we will explore the art of documentary filmmaking, the impact it has on society, and some of the most influential documentaries of all time.

The Art of Documentary Filmmaking

Documentary filmmaking is a unique art form that requires a combination of storytelling, research, and technical skill. Unlike fictional films, documentaries aim to capture real-life events and stories as they unfold, often shedding light on important issues and subjects that may not be widely known or understood. The role of a documentary filmmaker is to capture these moments in a way that is engaging, informative, and thought-provoking.

One of the key aspects of documentary filmmaking is research. Filmmakers must thoroughly investigate their subjects and topics, conducting interviews, gathering archival footage, and exploring different perspectives in order to present a well-rounded and comprehensive view of the subject matter. This research is crucial in shaping the narrative of the documentary and ensuring that the filmmaker accurately represents the story they are trying to tell.

Another important aspect of documentary filmmaking is storytelling. Filmmakers must find a way to weave together the various elements of their film – interviews, footage, music, and narration – into a cohesive and engaging narrative. This narrative structure is what keeps audiences engaged and emotionally invested in the stories being told.

Technical skill is also important in documentary filmmaking. Filmmakers must have a good understanding of camera techniques, lighting, sound design, and editing in order to bring their vision to life on screen. The way a documentary is shot and edited can have a significant impact on how the story is perceived by audiences.

The Impact of Documentary Filmmaking

Documentary filmmaking has the power to educate, inspire, and provoke change. By shining a light on important issues and stories, documentaries have the ability to influence public opinion, raise awareness, and spur action. From environmental documentaries that highlight the urgent need for conservation to social justice documentaries that expose injustice and inequality, documentary films have the ability to spark conversations and drive social change.

One of the key strengths of documentaries is their ability to humanize complex issues and make them relatable to audiences. By focusing on real people and real stories, documentaries create a connection between viewers and the subjects of the film, allowing audiences to empathize with their experiences and struggles. This emotional connection is what drives social change and motivates individuals to take action.

Documentary filmmaking also serves as a platform for marginalized voices and underrepresented communities. By giving a voice to those who are often unheard or ignored, documentaries can bring attention to important social issues and foster greater understanding and empathy among audiences. This inclusivity and diversity in storytelling is what makes documentary filmmaking such a powerful tool for social change.

Influential Documentaries

Throughout the history of cinema, there have been a number of groundbreaking documentaries that have had a lasting impact on the medium and on society as a whole. These documentaries have challenged the status quo, raised awareness about important issues, and inspired generations of filmmakers to use their art as a platform for change.

One of the most influential documentaries of all time is “Nanook of the North” (1922), directed by Robert Flaherty. Considered the first feature-length documentary, “Nanook of the North” follows the lives of an Inuit family in the Arctic and was praised for its groundbreaking storytelling and stunning cinematography. The film set the standard for documentary filmmaking and inspired generations of filmmakers to explore real-life stories and cultures.

Another influential documentary is “The Thin Blue Line” (1988), directed by Errol Morris. The film is a gripping investigation into the wrongful conviction of a man on death row for a crime he did not commit. Through a combination of interviews, reenactments, and archival footage, Morris presents a compelling case for the man’s innocence and ultimately helped to secure his release from prison. “The Thin Blue Line” is credited with redefining the true-crime genre and has had a lasting impact on criminal justice reform.

One of the most impactful documentaries of recent years is “13th” (2016), directed by Ava DuVernay. The film explores the history of racial inequality in the United States and the mass incarceration of African Americans. Through powerful interviews and archival footage, “13th” exposes the systemic racism within the criminal justice system and calls for reform. The film has been praised for its informative and eye-opening portrayal of this important issue and has sparked national conversations about race and justice.


Documentary filmmaking is a powerful medium that allows filmmakers to shine a light on important issues, tell compelling stories, and drive social change. Through research, storytelling, and technical skill, documentary filmmakers have the ability to educate, inspire, and provoke audiences around the world. By humanizing complex issues, giving voice to marginalized communities, and challenging the status quo, documentaries have the power to shape public opinion, raise awareness, and drive social change. As we continue to explore the art and impact of documentary filmmaking, we can see the profound influence that these films have had on society and the world at large.