A practice of filmmaking that deals with actual and factual (and usually contemporary) issues, institutions, and people; whose purpose is to educate, inform, communicate, persuade, raise consciousness, or satisfy curiosity; in which the viewer is commonly addressed as a citizen of a public sphere; whose materials are selected and arranged from what already exists (rather than being made up); and whose methods involve filming ‘real people’ as themselves in actual locations, using natural light and ambient sound. Although filmmaking of this type dates to the earliest years of cinema (see actualities; travel film), the term documentary was not coined until the 1920s, when the founder of the British Documentary Movement, John Grierson, defined it as ‘the creative treatment of actuality’.
Kuhn, A. & Westwell, G. (2012). "Documentary." In A Dictionary of Film Studies. : Oxford University Press. Retrieved 17 Nov. 2016.
To find books and other resources about documentaries, use the subject heading documentary films. Use this same search to find actual documentary films located in the Jones Media Center. Other related subject headings are listed below.
Articles and other writings about movies can be found in many publications. Our collection includes a couple of titles which look exclusively at Documentary films. You can use Film & Television Literature Index to find articles.