Watching documentaries is a great way to learn new things. These are films that shape and interpret facts for education and entertainment of their viewers. It has several social functions, which are to record, preserve, and reveal, and persuade. This form of motion films also aims to entertain and educate.
If you are struggling to write a good documentary essay, our experts have combined some helpful tips for you here. So, no need to worry.
First and foremost, you should find a topic. Focus on something you are genuinely passionate about. Think about the cause that matters to you: maybe it’s climate change, slavery, environmental cause, ocean pollution, or perhaps it’s something else. It is essential to find something that speaks to you. This way, you won’t struggle with composing your paper.
You can also find a list of essay topics for your documentary research below, checking our samples. Yet, to pick the right idea, we first need to understand what film types are available.
There are several genres of documentaries:
Expository documentaries. Such films present objective information with a ubiquitous presence. The filmmaker usually does not appear on the screen.
Poetic documentaries. They rely heavily on images and music rather than narration. That is to say, there is little verbal communication with the audience.
Essayistic documentaries. These movies feature an essay-like narration. The filmmaker relies both on speech and on the images to make their point.
Observational documentaries. They try to demonstrate an objective record of some activity. It almost does not have music and narration and tries to present the event as-it-is.
Participatory documentaries. The films are the complete opposite of observational ones. The filmmaker is an active participant in the movie. They appear on the screen and communicate the subject.
Performance documentaries. These movies feature a dramatic performance. It can be a concert, a play, or another performance event recorded in the form of a documentary.
Interview films. These are the records of a conversation between two or more people. It relies on communication on-screen to deliver the message rather than on images and music.
Dramatization. This type recreates an event using actors to bring the viewer to the event. Some argue that it is not a form of documentary.
Mixed documentaries. The films use different modes and techniques. It can combine poetic, expository, interview modes at the same time.
Animation films. Such movies are standard, too, and their most distinctive feature is the use of animation to present the material.
As for your documentary essay assignment, you can be asked to work with any documentary. Let’s figure out what tasks you will need to fulfill beforehand.
Movie Review vs. Movie Analysis
Not everyone understands the difference between a movie review and a movie analysis when watching movies and writing essays about the material. Sometimes these two terms are used interchangeably. Nevertheless, when it comes to grading and evaluating the paper, this difference is essential.
A film review essay is a “consumer-oriented” judgment that aims to recommend (or not) a movie. One can find documentary review essay examples in the newspapers, websites, or online databases.
An analysis of the film usually offers an interpretation and an evaluation of the movie. Some film theory is generally used as a framework to analyze and interpret the feature.
You can center your documentary essay assignment around not only a specific film but an entire genre of documentaries. You might be asked to write about a specific topic or an aspect of one movie in depth. Let’s try to see how it works!
How to Write a Documentary Essay
When you are asked to write an essay about a documentary, there are expectations. You will need to analyze specific elements in one film or a few.
No matter what your assignment is, we are here to help you nail it! Here is a short guide on how to write a documentary essay:
Watch the documentary (and take notes). We highly recommended watching the film several times before you start writing anything. Throughout this process, you should take notes to recall essential elements later on. Schematically express your ideas and arguments.
Choose your perspective. You need to understand the approach you will be using. However, your position should be supported by the examples and ideas from the film. Search for what others think and say on a similar issue and compare it to your thoughts.
Pick what to discuss. After that, you need to start collecting the examples and ideas from the movie that support your viewpoint. All these elements should eventually connect to the main focus of your paper. You can try to do some additional research but do not forget to return to the movie continually.
Outline your essay. The outline will help you stay within the word limit. This way, you’ll structure your thoughts and ideas on the paper before you start your essay. Plus, you will remain close to the intended format while writing.
Write it! Start with a brief introduction about the documentary and your thesis statement at the end of it. Then, evaluate the film, developing your arguments logically. In your conclusion, restate your position on the matter and list the critical points discussed.
Thank you for reading this article till the very end! We hope you found it helpful. Share this page with those who need our help. For your inspiration, you can check the list of documentary essay examples below.
The main task of this paper is to analyze the methods of testing provided by the Battle of the Brains: The Case for Multiple Intelligences and decide which participant can be considered as the smartest [...]
The documentary "Devil's Playground" by Walker, released in 2002, depicts the aspects of a micro culture and the internal wishes of the teenagers of this micro culture to break free of the Amish society and [...]
In my opinion, it is every retailer's and food manufacturing company's ethical responsibility to clearly mention not only all the preservatives but also the processing that a food has been subjected to so as to [...]
The information gained from this documentary will be used to unravel the mystery surrounding Georg Elser's attempt on Hitler's life and the film will be played on the day of commemoration of this period on [...]
Firstly the question of the awful performance of the government in dealing with the disaster and sufferings of people, and secondly the state sponsored ignorance of the masses who were made to suffer the horrifying [...]
The results of the research are deplorable, because the rate of unemployed people increases every day, people have nothing to pay for their homes, insurances, and education. Is it possible to make fortune in the [...]
The first scientific evidence is that icepacks in the north and south poles are breaking up unnaturally. The third evidence is that the quantity of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising to unnaturally high [...]
The events of the current world economic situation can be perceived through the Enron debacle described in the movie "The Smartest Guys in the Room"."The Smartest Guys in the Room" is considered to be a [...]
The reality of political life in the American society has formed Americans' stereotypical thinking concerning the destiny of the former vice presidents. What hampers the viewers' comprehension is the absence of numbers in most of [...]
Moore confronts Smith in the climax of the film only to be met with insensitivity and denial. With what has transpired in the auto industry today, Roger and Me might have been precursor of things [...]
The clearing of forests by mass burning, which is happening at a phenomenal rate in the tropical rain forests, is decreasing the amount of CO2 that is absorbed and increasing the amount that is added [...]
The uniqueness of the documentary is that it records and regulates the rationality of the male and patriarchy. This documentary produces a reference to socio-symbolic discourse and the social imaginary through which culture, by means [...]
In defining a documentary as "the creative treatment of reality," Grierson could as well be his view of film as a form of social and political communication or a mechanism for social reform, education, and [...]
The other important themes accentuated in the film include mass incarceration, racism, social bias, the gender issue, the impact on the environment, the social impact, the ineffectiveness of a prison system, and education.
The documentary supports the argument that the interaction that introduced Japan to the rest of the world was critical in ensuring human rights and freedom of the most vulnerable classes in the society.
Unlike many other sources and documentaries on the issue, this film really delves deeply into the political and religious roots of the Iranian leadership and society, leading the country to become an adversary of the [...]
The central themes of The People's Republic of Capitalism are the intricacies of the Chinese experiment with capitalism restrained by the authoritarian government and interdependence of American and Chinese economies.
When applying some of Rawls' concepts of justice to the situation described in Merchants of Doubt, it becomes clear that the actions of tobacco companies and such public figures and scientists as Frederick Singer who [...]
I think that the development of Scientific Racism and further Eugenics became the result of people's attempts to justify their unethical behavior toward other individuals and to support their material goals to develop slavery, and [...]
This part concentrates on the changes the newly elected President Roosevelt was making to lead America out of the economic crisis, the alternatives to democracy that were being sought around the world, and Bernays' later [...]
The second part introduces the main heroines of the documentary the women who started working in industries at an early age to support the economy of the war-stricken country and features their stories about the [...]
The current paper discusses a documentary, "The Murder of Emmett Till," which presents the story of the death of Emmet Till, one of the most known victims of racial violence in the USA, and briefly [...]
The movie is a documentary on an experiment conducted on filmmaker Spurlock by himself so as to reveal the effects of eating fast foods. The movie concludes by authoritatively stating that fast foods are hazardous [...]
The documentary features personal student stories, as well as professional comments from the Student Loan Justice official, emphasizing that it is rather corporate than personal irresponsibility to blame for the existing situation.
Using the documentary "Inside Job", the paper presented below asserts that the malpractices of different banking experts, the ethical dilemma revolving around ratings agencies' actions, and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley and the Glass-Steagall Acts influenced the nature [...]
The overall essence of the film can be characterized as musically and visually complex due to the combination of seemingly separate worlds: Ra's deep philosophical monologues and the Arkestra's banter about Ra and his contribution [...]
The historic and exotic city is positioned strategically north of the large Niger River on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. The text written in the margins was added after the original text of [...]
The film begins with the off-screen narrator telling the audience that throughout the sixties, the University of California remained at the forefront of people's struggle to be in the position to take full advantage of [...]
The social issues that have been shown in the documentary are living condition of migrant workers in cities, the growing gap between the children and their absentee parents, and the change in the position of [...]
The reason for this is apparent the deployment of such an approach will naturally prompt the audience to think of what is being discussed as such that directly relates to what happened to be their [...]
In the film, it is noted that people who decided to devote their lives to the practice of yoga would leave their homes, "abandon the conventional life" and the "householder stage" to "wander around in [...]
Having invited many participants and witnesses to star in the movie and having included numerous original recordings of the events that happened in 1961, Nelson became able to create a profoundly impressive account of one [...]
In their documentary Immigration Battle film, Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini show the human factor and the guilt of both the Democrats and the Republicans regarding this failure to end the deportations.
The introduction of personal computers to the market revolutionized almost every aspect of human life today."Triumph of the Nerds" is a 1996 documentary about the history of personal computing since the creation of the first [...]
The main goal of this paper is to discuss the concepts of leadership and power, using examples that are presented in a film Street Fight. His slogans emphasized the importance of changes in the leadership [...]
However, these symbols are also used in the documentary in order to accentuate the direction in the author's story from discussing different ways followed by the country during its development to accentuating the core of [...]
This paper uses "The Retirement Gamble" film and other scholarly articles to not only discuss the pros and cons of privatizing social security, but also to reflect on some of the pertinent issues raised in [...]
As competition continues to become fierce in the global market, more companies will be expected to engage in different malpractices thus threatening the lives of more people. Experts also believe that this problem will continue [...]
Regardless numerous discussions about Hip Hop, this culture remains to be a considerable part of human life that helps to understand that such issue as racial profiling is not only something that is required by [...]
One of the most amazing facts uncovered in the process of viewing the first episode of the "Race The Power of an Illusion" documentary is that people of different races have significant genetic coincidences.
The film aims to analyze the relation of the IMF to the process of globalization. The process of globalization and the cooperation of the countries with the IMF are affecting the countries of the third [...]
The documentary provides detailed information, as to what were the process's sub-sequential phases, while presenting the audience with the excerpts from the interviews with the most prominent members of Anonymous and promoting the idea that [...]
To assure the existence of the social and historical support, the movie is presented in the form of the documentary and can be viewed by an extended audience to spread awareness about the drawbacks of [...]
This area can be named the heart and soul of rural Romania because ancient traditions and customs are carefully kept there despite the globalization and modernization of the world. There is no spirit of death; [...]
What was particularly interesting is that the area is a rare example of almost pristine nature and forest life in the entire Europe, which means that Wild Carpathia has a great potential in being an [...]
In a bombshell revelation, the documentary purports that the Japanese populous is mostly unaware of the activities that go on in the cove. In the end, O'Barry has to be escorted out of the meeting [...]
The documentary film NOVA: Battle of the X-Planes throws light on the functioning of the aircraft industry. In particular, much attention is paid to the cooperation of companies representing this industry with military agencies, especially [...]
The "strengths of this theory make it effective towards describing the behaviors of many individuals in the society". Many individuals engage in criminal activities due to lack of the required resources.
The desire to cognize the meaning of life involves the quest for the internal integrity and constancy of the personality. The fact of belonging to a particular cultural group, in which there are standards and [...]