1. Poetic documentaries (Artistic expression) which first appeared in the 1920’s, moved away fromRain (1928), whose subject is a passing summer shower over Amsterdam; Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s Play of Light: Black, White, Grey (1930), in which he films one of his own kinetic sculptures, emphasizing not the sculpture itself but the play of light around it; Oskar Fischinger’s abstract animated films; Francis Thompson’s N.Y., N.Y. (1957), a city symphony film; Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil (1982).
continuity editing and instead organized images of the material world by means of associations and patterns, both in terms of time and space. Examples: Joris Ivens’
2. Expository documentaries (Voice of God) speak directly to the viewer, often in the form of an authoritative commentary employing voiceover or titles, proposing a strong argument and point of view. These films are rhetorical, and try to persuade the viewer. (They may use a rich and sonorous male voice.)Examples: TV shows and films like A&E Biography; America’s Most Wanted; many science and nature documentaries; Ken Burns’ The Civil War (1990); Robert Hughes’ The Shock of the New (1980); John Berger’s Ways Of Seeing (1974).
3. Cinéma vérité (Observational) is a term, referring to a style of documentary filmmaking, Observational documentaries (like Cinéma vérité ) to simply and spontaneously observe lived life with a minimum of intervention. Filmmakers who worked in this sub-genre often saw the poetic mode as too abstract and the expository mode as too didactic. this mode of film eschewed voice-over commentary, post-synchronized dialogue and music, or re-enactments. The films aimed for immediacy, intimacy, and revelation of individual human character in ordinary life situations. Examples: Frederick Wiseman’s films, e.g. High School (1968); Gilles Groulx and Michel Brault’s Les Racquetteurs (1958); Albert & David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin's Gimme Shelter (1970); D.A. Pennebaker's Don’t Look Back (1967), about Dylan’s tour of England.
invented by Jean Rouch, inspired by Dziga Vertov's theory about Kino-Pravda and influenced by Robert Flaherty’s films.
4. Participatory documentaries believe that it is impossible for the act of filmmaking to not The Man with a Movie Camera (1929); Rouch and Morin’s Chronicle of a Summer (1960); Ross McElwee’s Sherman’s March (1985); Nick Broomfield’s films. I suspect Michael Moore’s films would also belong here, although they have a strong ‘expository’ bent as well.
influence or alter the events being filmed. Nichols: “The filmmaker steps out from behind the cloak of voice-over commentary, steps away from poetic meditation, steps down from a fly-on-the-wall perch, and becomes a social actor (almost) like any other. (Almost like any other because the filmmaker retains the camera, and with it, a certain degree of potential power and control over events.)”Examples: Vertov’s