by Eric Kohn.
In the 21st century, everyone is an amateur documentarian. From snapshots of turmoil in the streets of Syria to adorable glimpses of the world’s nuttiest pets, the volume of video documenting virtually every facet of societies around the world continues to rise at an unprecedented rate. Moving images aren’t just a record of the world as it passes by; they now document virtually every waking moment of the present.
What, then, constitutes serious documentary filmmaking? Over half a century since the cinema verite movement, there has been no real consensus on where non-fiction storytelling is headed. To some extent, the term itself restricts discussion of the documentary’s possibilities: Any kind of filmmaking forced to adhere to a set of aesthetic or technical expectations can’t possibly evolve. However, the past year has seen the release of a healthy blend of traditional documentaries and boundary-pushing works that revitalize the medium.
The following 10 titles, released over the course of the past 12 months, represent both ends of the spectrum. Collectively they show that even as some of the more straightforward approaches to documentary filmmaking continue to enthrall with topical issues, the various ways in which documentaries as a creative practice will keep developing are limitless.
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