While in fiction the choice determines the aesthetics and dynamics of the film, the spectator’s awareness that (s)he is watching a documentary film can prove to be very tricky in terms of reception of the meaning inherent in the order of shots or use of camera angles.

If the viewer realises that the film-maker is purposely composing a shot in such a way as to hide a part of the picture or undeservedly emphasise a certain aspect, the film can immediately ring false. And although sincerity is equally important in fiction and documentary, most audiences are predisposed to expect “truth” from a documentary film.

Let me look at three films that provide completely different, yet equally illustrative examples of a strongly defined visual approach.

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