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For documentary fiction relating to novels, see Historical fiction.

Docufiction (or docu-fiction), often confused with docudrama, is the cinematographic combination of documentary and fiction.[1]

It is a film genre[2] which attempts to capture reality such as it is (as direct cinema or cinéma vérité) and which simultaneously introduces unreal elements or fictional situations in narrative in order to strengthen the representation of reality using some kind of artistic expression.

More precisely, it is a documentary contaminated with fictional elements,[3] in real time,[4] filmed when the events take place, and in which someone – the character – plays his own role in real life. A film genre in expansion, it is adopted by a number of experimental filmmakers.

The new term docufiction[5] appeared at the beginning of the 21st century. It is now commonly used in several languages and widely accepted for classification by international film festivals.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14] Either in cinema or television, docufiction is, anyway, a film genre in full development during the first decade of this century.

The word docufiction is also sometimes used to refer to literary journalism (creative nonfiction).[15]

Docudrama and mockumentary[edit]

In contrast, docudrama is usually a fictional and dramatized recreation[16] of factual events in form of a documentary, at a time subsequent to the "real" events it portrays. A docudrama is often confused with docufiction when drama is considered interchangeable with fiction (both words meaning the same). Typically however, "docudrama" refers specifically to telefilms or other television media recreations that dramatize certain events often with actors.

A mockumentary (etymology: mock documentary)[17] is also a film or television show in which fictitious events are presented in documentary format, sometimes a recreation of factual events after they took place or a comment on current events, typically satirical, comedic or even dramatic[18] (see genres: drama versus comedy and tragedy). Portraying events at an ulterior time and basically using fictional narrative such as docudrama, it should not be confused with docufiction as well.


The term involves a way of making films already practiced by such authors as Robert Flaherty, one of the fathers of documentary,[19][20] and Jean Rouch, later in the 20th century.

Being both fiction and documentary,[21] docufiction is a hybrid genre,[22] raising ethical problems[23][24][25][26][27][28][29] concerning truth, since reality may be manipulated and confused with fiction (see Ethics at creative non-fiction).

In the domain of visual anthropology, the innovating role of Jean Rouch[30] allows one to consider him as the father of a subgenre called ethnofiction.[31][32] This term means: ethnographic documentary film with natives who play fictional roles. Making them play a role about themselves will help portray reality, which[33] will be reinforced with imagery. A non ethnographic documentary with fictional elements uses the same method and, for the same reasons, may be called docufiction.

First docufictions by country[edit]

Other notable docufictions[edit]

See more at

Hybrid pictures[edit]

Filmic depictions of ethnic groups became a current practice since Flaherty shot Nanook of the North in 1922 (the first feature-length documentary in film history, a docudrama) and since, under its influence, Jean Rouch pioneered ethnofiction with Moi un noir (1958, foreshadowing the French New Wave) and coined this term as a new genre in visual anthropology. Subsequently, the concept of ethnofiction (ethnography+fiction) would exceed scientific practice and, by analogy, give rise to a wider designation (docufiction: documentary+fiction) in which it would be ranged as subgenre. Such designation would then be used to classify films that early emerged in several countries, directly under Flaherty’s influence or indirectly by occasional resemblance, in both cases with no correlation and with significant differences in form and contents. On one hand hybridity became one of the criteria that joined documentary and fiction in a single concept.[50] On the other hand persons playing their own roles in real life and in real time is another that gave basement to it. Both these requirements are closely associated with two other in the practice of docufiction: 1. ethics and aesthetics,[51] i.e., fidelity to truth and reality,[52][53] 2. signifiers and connotations, i.e., forms of expression picturing facts in an illustrative or allusive way, unveiling facets of human life.

Extreme docufition[edit]

Modernity is the motor that made docufition cross a new frontier and find land to grow, a large territory governed by ambiguous figures. They often face each other. Sometimes they empathize. Others, they go angry.

Things went wrong for the first time with a sad story: Children of Hiroshima (1952), survivals of a colossal tragedy, a story of revenge starred by The Great Artiste and by the Necessary Evil. A story of tremendous explosions which imploded in cathartic effects, devastation and suffering in pictures of great beauty, in black and white. In same style and much lower scale, new attempts have been made to cause similar effects.

In different style and in diverse scales, others would be made to arise less pathos and more acute understanding of modern realities.[54][55] How far can they go? How far author vanities injure spectators? Will this perverse fashion have a future? Films like these have been few. Will be many those which follow? Will they fit to modern definitions? [56] (See: Postmodernist film)

Illustration and allusion are the poles of two different forms of mirroring reality, either in film or any other art. Illustration techniques are objective and implicate a concern of fidelity to what they represent, to the “representant”,[57] the signifier.[58] Allusion represents subjective matter.

Robert Flaherty would illustrate the realties he pictured with appealing aesthetics, realities that touched naïve audiences, exotic natives, beautiful and noble savages from dream countries faraway. He showed that with strong images conceived to please large audiences and greedy producers.[59][60][61][62][63][64] As well seduced by such charms, Jean Rouch, a scientist before everything else, ventured to go further in extreme attempts. Using neutral lenses and a quite different sense of poetry, he went shooting blacks in mysterious countries of Africa with the noble intent of discovering what they mean. He submitted to confrontation in both fronts: reducing aesthetics to images with no pretention and ethics to strict principles, indispensable to bring up truth.[62][63][64]

Ever since, favored by new tools, new adventurers would insist attempting to go farther on both ways, some for the need of entertaining, others only for the joy of discovery. Both would succeed someway. Both, aware of what they were doing, would take the risk to submit their real intentions to the judgment of History. Some will be found on the right crossroad, where they meet.

The stories these adventurers tell about such encounters are ambiguous and highlight an uncomfortable paradox that haunts them all in different ways.[65]It affects audiences someway.[66]Most are American, one knows why. Many are Portuguese and Iranian. Why? From different countries, not so many, others try to do the same. For strong reasons, a few dare to go beyond the limits they should keep, turning documentary into irreducible fiction, into fantasy with no return: The 1001 Nights , Horse Money e.g., in opposite approaches. Others, in matching attempts, afraid to veer, set foot on redlines without singeing, using subtle tricks, ingredients with less burning effects: Taxi, Drifts e.g.. Both tendencies will survive. Mutant realities will make them distinct.


  1. ^ Reality and documentary – at Six Types Of Documentary, article by Girish Shambu (blog)
  2. ^ An Introduction to Genre Theory by Daniel Chandler at Aberystwyth University
  3. ^ Il difficile rapporto tra fiction e non fiction che si concretizza nella docu-fiction (The difficult relationship between fiction and non-fiction patent in docufiction ) - thesis in Italian by Laura Marchesi, Faculty of Communication Sciences (Università degli Studi di Pavia) at Tesionline, 2005/06
  4. ^ , Docufiction in the Digital Age – Thesis by Tay Huizhen, National University of Singapore
  5. ^ What is docufiction? – See Section II, pages 37 to 75 (four chapters) of the thesis by Prof. Theo Mäusli
  6. ^ Indie Matra Bhumi (The Motherland)Cannes Film Festival
  7. ^ Ablel Ferrara’s docufictionVenice Film Festival
  8. ^ The Savage Eye: White Docu-Fiction & Black Reality at Tribeca Film Festival
  9. ^ Brian De Palma's On His Iraq Docu-Fiction Comeback at The Huffington PostToronto Film Festival and Venice Film Festival
  10. ^ Darius Mehrjui’s film Diamond 33Venice Film Festival
  11. ^ New Film EventsLondon Short Film Festival
  12. ^ Oscilloscope 'Howl' for Off Beat Docu-Fiction Sundance Selection at Ion Cinema
  13. ^ Docufiction at several film festivals
  14. ^ See: Hybrids (fiction/nonfiction films) at External links
  15. ^ Tate Triennial 2009: Altermodern - 'Docufiction'
  16. ^ See Docudrama: the real (his)tory Confusion of genres – Page 2 on the thesis by Çiçek Coşkun (New York University School of Education)
  17. ^ From "mock + documentary" - definition at The Free Dictionary
  18. ^ A television programme or film which takes the form of a serious documentary in order to satirize its subject. - definition at The Free Dictionary and
  19. ^ Definition of documentary – New Frontiers in American documentary (American Studies at The University of Virginia)
  20. ^ The Impulse of Documentary-Fiction - Paper at Transart Institute
  22. ^ See hybrid genre – page 50, thesis on docufiction by Prof. Theo Mäusli
  23. ^ Open-ended Realities - article by Luciana Lang at Latineos
  24. ^ The appeal of hybrid documentary forms in West Africa at Project Muse
  25. ^ Ethics and Documentary Filmmaking – Article by Marty Lucas at Center for Social Media (American University in Washington, D.C)
  26. ^ On Ethics and Documentary: A Real and Actual Truth – Article by Garnet C. Butchart at Cultural Studies Program, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, published University of South Florida
  27. ^ What to Do About Documentary Distortion? Toward a Code of Ethics – Article by Bill Nichols at
  28. ^ Documentary Film Prompts-Ethics in Documentary/Fiction vs. Documentary – Paper by Ardavon Naimi at University of Texas at Dallas
  29. ^ Ethics and Filmmaking in Developing Countries at Unite For Sight
  30. ^ Jean Rouch 1917-2004, A Valediction - Article by Michael Eaton at Rouge
  31. ^ Glossary at MAITRES_FOUS.NET
  32. ^ Jean Rouch and the Genesis of Ethnofiction, thesis by Brian Quist, Long Island University
  33. ^ "Ethnofiction: drama as a creative research practice in ethnographic film." Journal of Media Practice 9, no. 3(2008), eScholarID:1b5648, article by Johannes Sjöberg
  34. ^ Why 'Moana,' the First Docufiction in History, Deserves a New Life - article by Laya Maheshwari at Indiewire, July 3, 2014
  35. ^ Note, however, that Flaherty's earlier film, Nanook of the North from 1922, incorporates many docufiction elements, including the "casting" of locals into fictitious "roles" and family relationships, as well as anachronistic hunting scenes.
  36. ^ See Maria do Mar at IMdb
  37. ^ See L'Or des mers at IMdb
  38. ^ Zombie and the Ghost Train (1991)Review/Film Festival; How a Zombie Became One With Alcohol and Self-Pity
  39. ^ "Chicago Cinema Forum". 2007-08-29. Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  40. ^ India: Matri Bhumi – Article by Doug Cummings at F i l m j o u r n e y (March 18th, 2007)
  41. ^ Digitally cleaned 'India, Matri Bhumi' screened at Vienna film festival – Article at IBN Live
  42. ^ Christopher, Rob (2007-08-29). "Q: What Do You Call a Movie That's Getting Its Chicago Premiere 48 Years After Being Made?". Chicagoist. Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  43. ^ The Human Pyramid at IMdb.
  44. ^ See Acto da Primavera
  45. ^ See Trevico-Torino (viaggio nel Fiat-Nam at IMdb
  46. ^ See Gente da Praia da Vieira
  47. ^ Trás-os-Montes at Harvard Film Archive
  48. ^ António Reis and Margarida Cordeiro at UCLA
  49. ^ Rep Pick: Ana – Review by Aaron Cutler at The L Magazine
  50. ^ Exploring Objectivity in Docufiction Filmmaking through the Concept of Hybridity – Abstract at Eleanorforder, August 7, 2014
  51. ^ Aesthetics defined by Encyclopedia Britanica
  52. ^ Reality in the Age of Aesthetics – Article at Frieze, Issue 114, April 2008
  53. ^ Documentary-for-the-Other: Relationships, Ethics and (Observational) Documentary – Article by Kate Nash, Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 26:224–239, 2011
  54. ^ Postmodernism and film – definition at Harvard university
  55. ^ Postmodern Theory – module 4 at University of Mionesota
  56. ^ Postmodern Cinema – article by Ana Night
  57. ^ Representant at The Free Dictionary]
  58. ^ Signifier and Signified
  59. ^ Robert Flaherty – article by Deane Williams at Senses of Cinema
  60. ^ Realism, Romanticism and the Documentary Form: Robert Flaherty's Man of Aran – Chapter 4 of Brian McFarlane, Ed, 24 Frames: The Cinema of Britain and Ireland, Wallflower, 2005
  61. ^ Flaherty/Vertov : two founding masters, two traditions – article at klerichar
  62. ^ a b Knowing Images: Jean Rouch’s Ethnography – chapter on Jean Rouch at
  63. ^ a b A Tribute to Jean Rouch – article by Paul Stoller at Rouge
  64. ^ a b Jean Rouch's Ciné-Ethnography: at the conjunction of research, poetry and politics – article by Lorraine Mortimer at Screenig the Past
  65. ^ The Paradox of Aesthetic Meaning – article by Lucius Garvin at Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Sep., 1947), pp. 99-106
  66. ^ What is the difference between documentary and feature film? – article at Video University

Sources and bibliography[edit]

THESES online



  • (English) Paget, Derek (1998). No Other Way to Tell It. Dramadoc/docudrama on television. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-4533-2. 
  • (English) Rosenthal, Alan (199). Why Docudrama? : Fact-Fiction on Film and TV. Carbondale & Edwardsville: Southern Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-8093-2186-5. 
  • (English) Lipkin, Steven N., ed. (2002). Real Emotional Logic. Film and Television Docudrama As Persuasive Practice. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-8093-2409-5. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Recent hybrid films since 2000