History of films begins with non-fiction films. Grand Café in Paris marked the embryonic screening of the first film by the Lumiere brothers. The initiatives of the Lumiere brothers paved a strong corner stone to the milestones of movie movements. The ever first films exposed actual life situations in factories, railway stations etc. these films never considered to be as documentaries. Because these kinds of non-fiction films does not satisfy criteria of a documentary.
It was in 1920s crystalized documentary as a form of expression with the theorization of John Grierson. He was a Scots social scientist specialized in the psychology of propaganda. Reviewing Robert Flaherty’s Moana in 1926, John Grierson said it was “documentary” in intention. Actually Flaherty’s earlier work Nanook of the North (1922) is now acknowledged as the seminal work in this category. Robert Flaherty, an American engineer began shooting an ethnographic record of an Eskimo family in 1915. After several years tiresome works, the film Nanook of the North became a reality.
Grierson defined documentaries as the “creative treatment of actualities.” Actual life situations’ different patterns of treatments are the major characteristic of a documentary. Here common people get a space to share their expressions. Issues among the general public or alienated sections are treated in detail. Finds the roots of cause and effects equation in an issue could be seen in this kind of films. Intentionally insisting a criticism is one of the face values of documentaries. Thematic focus and purposeful social criticism are the hearts and minds of a documentary film.
Different ideologues used documentaries and non- fiction films to propagate their own ideological versions. During the First World War from 1914 to 1918, film became an important medium of government propaganda.
Documentaries developed in different ways during the 1917 Russian Revolution. First evidence of documentary spirit in Russia lies with Kino-Eye of Daziga Vertov and his group. Kino Pravda(film-truth) movement by Vertov exemplified the revolutionary version of film movement. He used camera powerfully to disseminate the reality against the bourgeois perspectives. Real life captured by the camera was the motto of film-truth movement. Vertov’s Man with the Movie Camera 1929 is a powerful record of the camera’s capability to move and capture hidden agendas through exposing life in the street. He used montage shots lavishly to prove the capacity of camera as the all-seeing tool.
Like communists, the Nazis also utilized the capacity of camera in propaganda. The potentialities of camera meaningfully utilized by AdolfHitler in Germany. Hitler reinforced the Aryan supremacy by carefully treating the medium and selection of actors and characters. Triumph of the Will, the advertisement film made for making advertisement of the Nazi Congress in Nuremberg in 1934. Hitler is treated as a mythological character and pictured him as the god of Germans in this film. The Nazi films are best examples of manipulation of cameras.