By Allison Mickel. Used under a CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0 licence.

17 Questions to Ask When Watching a Documentary

[author-compact title=”About the Author”] [author-compact title=”About the Author” author_id=”2″] Documentary film-making has seen a very significant resurgence in the last few years. Some of the questions to ask when watching feature films apply just as much to watching documentaries. But there are a number of specific things to consider in relation to documentaries. These questions will help you, and they’re ideal to use in a group discussion.

  1. To what extent did the documentary engage you, interest you and captivate you? Why?
  2. What type of documentary is this? Is it a reality show, presenter based or presented as a “God’s point of view”?  How would it be different in another format?
  3. What themes, issues and conflicts are represented in the documentary? Why do you think those have been chosen?
  4. Which persons are highlighted as major subjects within the documentary? How and why?
  5. Which sources and interviewees have been selected in the documentary? Why do you think those persons have been selected?
  6. Which perspectives and angles have been chosen in the editorial introductions, the actual interviews and in the graphic presentations? Why do you think these journalistic and editorial decisions have been made?
  7. Were the contributors tastefully balanced and selected?  How would the film have changed with different experts, presenters etc, and would that change be for the better?
  8. From whose perspective does the documentary unfold and how would the film differ from another point of view?
  9. Whom do you identify with in the documentary (if any)? Why?
  10. Would you describe the major issues and stories as essential and important? Why? / Why not?
  11. What kind of essential areas, topics and perspectives are missing in this documentary (if any)? Why? To what extent may this be representative for the documentary industry?
  12. Did the film tell “the truth”?  Can a clearly-biased perspective be as “true” as a more balanced treatment of a subject?
  13. What kind of professional and personal values do you discover among the presenter and the interviewers in the documentary? To what extent do you identify with these values? Why? /Why not?
  14. If the Christian faith, Christian organizations or Christian individuals are covered in the documentary, how are these portrayed? Why?
  15. To what extent did the documentary leave you with a sense of involvement, hope, excitement, indifference, despair – or maybe with a mixture of such feelings? Why?
  16. How do a classical Christian view of humanity and the world help us to understand the wider context of the documentary?
  17. Is the overall perspective of the documentary consistent with a Christian worldview?

Photo credit: © Allison Mickel. Used under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0) licence.

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