Long before reality television came into our lives, people were using films to explore the truth and find out more about one part of the world. You will find documentaries about everything from working in finance and dealing with kitchen art to those about extreme skiing in the French Alps. There are as many different subjects for these films as there are for the movies that are fictional. Their history dates back more than a century and now there are festivals dedicated to the best new works.
The first films that were created before 1900 were technically documentaries, as they were filmed of real events like trains going through tunnels or people leaving a factory at the end of the day or coming out of wedding venues. But they were not yet called documentaries. They were known as actuality films. It wasn't until 1926 that they were known by their current name. The original films were only about a minute long but then people started seeing the potential with them to help people working in an
animal hospital or science lab as a teaching tool. By the 1920s, people got interested in travel films with scenes from all over the world.
In the 1920s there were several full-length documentaries made and the most popular of them was probably Nanook of the North. But this was not an entirely true story, as the director, Robert Flaherty, sometimes influenced the action and told the people who were in the film what to do. Films that were billed as documentaries showed up all over the world in the 1930s and 1940s as propaganda films for the war. You would see films and advertisements encouraging people to sign up and some that would change what was going on to make it look like one side was more successful than they really were in one battle or another.
Now, you will find that there are some documentaries that are reaching as much recognition as standard movies, like Supersize Me, Earth, Food Inc, and Bowling for Columbine. There are some that are meant to expose an issue that the filmmaker believes the world should know the truth about and others are simple for people who are passionate about or want to learn more about a certain subject. You can watch a documentary about the drug epidemic or global warming.
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