|Naming and Labelling Documentary Fiction: No Better Way to Tell It?|
Université Jean Moulin, Lyon 3
|Citation | Author | pdf version|
|1||John Grierson’s definition of documentary as “the creative treatment of actuality” came about as a celebration of the documentarists’ inventiveness and ingenuity when confronted with technological limitations. Yet, confusion arose when, in the 1950s, television started making extensive use of fiction to document everyday life in post-war Britain, while major breakthroughs had made it possible for filmmakers to carry out filmic recordings in situ. With trust and reliability at stake, the issue of classification was raised, something Patrick Charaudeau points to when writing about genre typology: “We need to be able to recognise similarities and differences in how we configure meanings that lead to the establishment of categories, which then serve as models or counter-models.” The notion of genre provided the adequate tool since its cross-disciplinary nature and its anchoring in the origins of critique allow for a subdivision that stems from the notion of archigenre, to take the neologism coined by François Jost after Gérard Genette’s model of the architext. This makes it possible to consider documentary fiction as a genre within the archigenre that fiction is. Yet, John Fiske and John Hartley warn against what Marshall McLuhan calls “rearviewmirrorism” which consists in evaluating television and televisual productions using well-established domains, and consequently they favour the use of new words. This task proves to be particularly difficult in the case of documentary fiction on British television, mainly because television is a medium that has also extensively borrowed from previous artistic and technological domains, making labelling impossible without the use of existing terminology.|
|2||The classification of television programmes operates in a very empirical way. It is rare for forms to spring from nowhere and it is more common to rediscover a structure than to truly invent it. That is why documentary fiction is often defined in terms reminiscent of nineteenth-century literature. Cathy Come Home (Ken Loach, 1966) was noted for its realism while some critics went so far as to describe it as naturalist. Yet, the term “naturalist” was most commonly used to describe Up the Junction (1965), also directed by Ken Loach. These examples demonstrate the pressing need of critiques to tap into the terminology of other artistic practices, both old and new, in order to define their object of study.|
|3||Since documentary fiction reprocesses rather than truly coins new words, it would be misguided to believe that the corresponding concepts, borrowed from theatre and film, would still have the same meaning when applied to television, something echoed in Gerard Leblanc’s writing about documentary and fiction:
Even though Leblanc’s statement relates to cinema fiction and documentary as distinct cinematographic genres, it is perfectly relevant to television and there is also a process of appropriation and reorientation that is at work in television documentary fiction.
|4||One of the strengths of hybrid forms, however, is questioning the nature of their constituent elements: to what extent are documentary fiction films documentaries? What are the criteria that define a documentary? This means fundamentally questioning how directors grasp reality, bearing in mind that the notion of porosity stands at the core of issues on filmic matters in the United Kingdom and that the filmmakers mentioned in this paper, whether Ken Loach or Peter Kosminsky, to name two of the most prominent directors, have offered a range of fiction, documentary and hybrid productions and have worked in both cinema and television.|
|5||Television increases the difficulty of classification by generating hybridity and self-referentiality. The only advantage of such a wide range of practices is that it leads to interrogations about the way we understand the audio-visual media and its productions. It questions the words we use to explain them: can we call genre an audio-visual epiphenomenon? Does longevity ontologically suffice for the constitution of a genre? The same observations can apply to documentary fiction where fluctuating practices make a study of the genre difficult.|
|6||A linguistic approach, centred on morphology and semantics, should help shed light on the issues at stake when choosing to label hybrid productions like docudramas and dramadocs. It will pave the way for a development focused on the characteristics of each and, finally, on the impact professional practices have on terminology, attempting to bring answers to the following questions in the process: how far does financing by documentary, fiction or news departments can affect the labelling of the final productions? How far does it also influence viewer reception, which is a key element in the choice of the correct terminology?
Naming Matters: New Words for New Formats
|7||Attempting to solve the issue of taxonomy within documentary fiction, with its varied and inventive structures, involves trying to solve the tension that stands at the heart of the filmmaker’s will to provide a testimony on a heated issue through the use of fiction. The large number of lexical structures that stem from the combination of the words documentary and drama (dramadoc, drama-documentary, docudrama, documentary drama, fictionalised documentary, enhanced documentary film, etc.) raises questions on the nature of such representations. While the terms used to refer to fiction may vary, “documentary” cannot be bypassed, in both its complete or amalgamated forms. Its usage underlines the common feature of all these productions, which is reporting on reality on the one hand, and doing so within the testimonial tradition of the documentary on the other hand. In the United Kingdom it corresponds to the interwar filmic tradition which consisted in providing evidence of the everyday life of the population, a leading figure within this movement being John Grierson. While “documentary” springs from the attempts by a documentarist like John Grierson to provide records of the workings of the world, “drama” refers to the theatre and to the staging of reality.|
|8||The plurality of terms used to refer to the fictional dimension contained in these productions attests to the diversity of practices that range from reconstruction by professional and amateur actors, to stock footage within fictional narratives, not to mention the recent use of computer assisted imagery (CAI). Relying on the reputation of the documentary as a form that reports on reality is what these productions aim to do. Of equal importance is the choice of social and political subject-matters that, on modern British television, link these productions to the tradition of the documentary, as proved by Peter Kosminsky’s The Project (2002) and The Government Inspector. Yet the fictional dimension of these productions cannot be denied and their opponents have often denounced them as inadequate to report on current affairs or even on history.|
|9||From the point of view of sponsors, the issue of terminology appears as crucial since it can make a production attractive to a very broad audience, even prior to release. Yet, it involves expectations to be fulfilled, something which leads Woodhead to call for a “refreshment” of the contract between filmmakers and viewers. According to Woodhead:
It is not surprising that this observation comes from a director who has long been involved in documentaries with a journalistic import as well as documentary fiction films. “Signposting” refers to the warnings given at the beginning of a film that highlight the links between what actually happened and how events are presented. It may also refer to the link established between fictional characters and the actors involved but also, and perhaps most importantly, to the genre chosen by the director and the sponsor, according to which the viewer may be offered pure fiction, documentary, reportage, docudrama (dramatisation based on investigations and interviews) or even dramadoc (the hybrid representation of a significant political or social event). Acting as a guarantee of integrity, signposting should avoid any questioning of the value of what is presented.
Documentary Drama versus Drama-Documentary: A Meaningful Opposition
|10||As a portmanteau word, docudrama is more than the sum of its parts, hence the need to highlight its journalistic, social, and political aspects which, although they do not all appear in the terminology, are nevertheless highly relevant. As indicated earlier with Peter Kosminsky’s productions, docudrama taps heavily, although not solely, into current events and topical issues. Yet, as far as terminology is concerned, there is no trace of terms relevant to either: no words associated with journalism can be found, a feature reminiscent of the fact that the interest of the genre lies in the tension between fiction and documentary.|
|11||For specialists of documentary fiction, like Derek Paget and Elihu Katz, “docudrama” has become a hypernym, or generic term which, through its widespread use, has supplanted all other terminologies. However, the authors stress the need to retain all the forms. As illustrated by the diversity of morphological combinations (drama-documentary, documentary drama, docufiction, etc.), these productions obey specific rules that reflect reality in radically different ways. The difficulty of the task is underlined by Derek Paget who sees “uncertainty, anxiety, conceptual confusion” in the semantic approach to taxonomy. He points out the subordination of the adjective drama to documentary in “drama documentary”, but places the two words on an equal footing when joined by a hyphen, as in drama-documentary. As for the amalgamated form, “dramadocumentary”, it is primarily the result of usage: in its early days, the decade that followed World War II, the genre emerged as a form of documentary with a dose of fiction and was referred to as “dramatised documentary” which eventually became “dramadoc.” Documentary, as a key term in this structure, clearly shows that the main idea is to inform viewers and document a moment in time.|
|12||Contrary to what the principle of amalgam suggests, these creations are not the accumulation of the semantic value of each term. Paradoxically, amalgamation here is synonymous with subtraction, and, too often, documentary fiction does not benefit from the credit of documentary or from the interest aroused by fiction either. Talking about forms that combine fiction and documentary means reducing both the credibility and the aesthetic value of the result.|
|13||However, forms, whether amalgamated or complete, reflect a style and not only a practice at a given time. Drama-documentary and documentary drama stand out as evidence of historically dated productions. Yet, they are also used to describe productions with an atypical aesthetic or an unusual subject-matter. Dramadoc is the term most often used in newspapers and magazines to describe Peter Kosminsky’s work, as proved by Screenonline, though the expression was mainly used originally for productions from the 1960s and 1970s. This terminological resurrection is meaningful and points to Kosminsky’s productions as modern forms of television documentary fiction, reminiscent of what the budding post-war television would offer viewers.|
|14||The British are familiar with the intricacies of this terminology and specific terms, such as dramadoc or mock documentary (or mockumentary), are widely used in the mainstream press from across the Channel. The Guardian, in an article dated 14th March 2005, classified Kosminsky’s The Government Inspector as a dramadoc. In the 14th September 2006 edition of the same newspaper, an article described Gabriel Range’s Death of a President as a mock-documentary, which presupposed that viewers were familiar with the term. The use of a varied and precise terminology presupposes the knowledge, among readers, of discriminating criteria, reflecting the relevant practices connected with the genre. The British public, accustomed to a wide variety of terms used to label these hybrid productions, is aware that the choice of a precise term is semantically significant. A widely-used word like docudrama has the word “drama” as basis and “doc” as an adjectival expansion; this means that the relevant productions are fictional although they can be described in various ways: “documented”, “with documentary value”, etc.|
|15||The term “docudrama” is favoured to account for all the productions based on real people and situations that a director undertakes, through condensation and displacement, to represent in a fictional way. “Documentary drama” or “docudrama” is fiction: the staging of reality, its re-enactment, in other words a simulation of past facts, rather than reconstruction, which is the exact reproduction of what happened, as in the case of forensic expertise. Cathy Come Home (1966), by Ken Loach, is the perfect example of documentary drama. It was compiled from testimonies, archives and field research, and it related the downfall of a young couple and their two children in England in the early 1960s.|
|16||On the contrary, the documentary dimension of a film is what is highlighted when the word “dramatised documentary” or “dramadoc” is chosen. The apocopate “doc” for documentary indicates the faithful rendition of reality, an attempt at complete equation between the film and the actual events. “Dramadoc” is, therefore, the term used to refer to cinematic creations based on evidenced facts, in which the director chooses to preserve people’s names, place names, and the chronology of events. This term is associated with the representation of significant political events such as the British government’s management of the situation in Northern Ireland. Examples of such creations are Shoot to Kill (Peter Kosminsky, 1990) Bloody Sunday (Paul Greengrass, 2002) and Omagh (Pete Travis, 2004). More recently, Kosminsky’s The Government Inspector, about British scientist David Kelly, who was sent to Iraq to investigate claims of weapons of mass destruction, was also classified as a “dramadoc.” His suicide was the subject of this film, which also highlighted the opposition the Blair government faced after its involvement in Iraq alongside the Bush administration.|
|17||Yet, if critics want to be more insistent on the documentary nature of these productions, they can also opt for a commentary like a “drama-like documentary” which, because it is less common, draws the readers’ attention to their hybrid nature. Terminology is informative about the indexical nature of films, providing viewers with indications about how far their expectations are likely to be fulfilled.|
|18||Researching on drama-documentary, David Edgar underlines the semantic consequences arising from the decision to highlight the documentary or factual aspects:
He carries out an identical analysis when contrasting and comparing the constituent terms of documentary drama with drama-documentary:
The confrontation of the two terms brings out the salient features of each: the drama-documentary is based on specific facts, while the documentary drama is the compilation of a series of events with heavy social import.
Defining Practices: Documentary Drama
|19||Documentary drama (docudrama) draws inspiration from current affairs or recent history and revolves around a fictional narrative. Documentary drama develops a factual discourse that calls into question the relationships between reality and the codes and conventions used by the documentary. It uses invented sequences of events and fictional characters. For Derek Paget, docudrama is fundamentally indexical in its relation to reality: “The docudrama is an inherently indexical form: it points more insistently toward its origins in the real world than other kind of drama.” He underlines the intentional seriousness of productions that address current affairs and recent history, and also stresses the need of their directors to gain credit rather than remain faithful towards what really happened. Docudrama is based on a method of realistic representation that does not hinder the principle of suspension of disbelief, as defined by Christian Metz when writing about framings: “The ordinary framings are finally felt to be non-framings: I espouse the film-maker’s look (without which no cinema would be possible), but my consciousness is not aware of it.”|
|20||For Paget, documentary drama corresponds to the British television films of the 1960s that stand out from other productions of the time because of their attacks on institutions and their questioning of public policies. He has in mind Ken Loach’s films made for television from the 1960s onwards and to some extent, the works of Peter Watkins, although the latter are closer to “trauma-drama”, television productions equivalent to disaster films. In The Trap (1975), a film set in the midst of a future catastrophic situation, Watkins indicts the negligence of national and local authorities who fail to prepare citizens to a nuclear attack. This type of film aimed to draw in a wide audience for controversial subjects so as to prompt the authorities to take action concerning such a burning issue as the lack of civil protection policies in case of a nuclear attack. As always with this kind of fiction, the film was based on evidence, research, investigations and intelligence from experts. The relevant information, once collected, was structured around fictional elements − such as characters, chronology, and places – which correspond to the very definition of documentary drama. What matters in these narratives is less the story than what the filmmakers choose to say about the world they represent, which leads us back to the question of indexicality.|
|21||For the Batsford Dictionary of Drama, “documentary drama” is “a drama that deals with contemporary social issues, usually in a direct and naturalistic way”. Eager to enjoy the freedom that technological breakthroughs allowed, the directors of the documentary fiction films of the 1960s tried to maintain the spontaneity associated with the documentary by using shaky handheld cameras, extra-diegetic sounds, wide shots, and a range of devices that introduced a disruption from the conventional Hollywood mise en scène; these devices were reminders of the naturalism of neo-realist cinema.|
|22||Docudrama is a modern genre which is part and parcel of the televisual and cinematic landscapes: Ken Loach was among the first to experiment with it on television with Up the Junctionand Cathy Come Home; he also helped popularise the social realism associated with docudrama by transferring it to cinema productions (Poor Cow, 1969, Kes, 1969, Raining Stones, 1993). The combination of topics about ordinary people’s daily experiences, with long-takes and close-ups on unexpected or even unsightly details, are distinctive features of his aesthetic that can be traced back to films from his early career at the BBC (Diary of a Young Man, 1964; Up the Junction; Cathy Come Home).|
|23||Among the recurring themes are ageing, with wide shots of people bent over their walking sticks, and poverty. In Up The Junction the insertion of long shots on extradiegetic faces of shabbily-dressed passers-by in run-down areas act as fragments of a painting of extreme poverty in big cities which the filmmaker otherwise stages with sequences on women surrounded by children in derelict places. The insouciance and exuberance of the urban proletariat are the basis of the soundtrack: bursts of laughter and snatches of happy conversations can be overheard. Static shots freeze time and give depth to the subjects and to the characters. For a few moments, they disrupt the action-image − to use Gilles Deleuze’s terminology − and impose a remarkably strong and sober affection-image. For these images, Loach drew inspiration from neorealism: “The new flexibility made it possible in the manner of Italian neo-realism, to bring in non-professionals, to tap greater spontaneity in the actors, and to give a greater feeling of verisimilitude to a production all-around”. These images became paradigmatic, and the director re-used them a year later in Cathy Come Home, breaking fresh ground in the field of TV documentary and popularising documentary fiction.|
|24||For John Corner “’documentary drama’”, is essentially a form of play, but a form which is seen to develop a documentary character either as a result of its scale of referentiality to specific real events (private or public or both), or because of its manner of depiction”. Cathy Come Home fits perfectly into this definition. Cathy Come Home is the result of the condensation of several dysfunctions in the British society of the mid-60s. Occasionally, Cathy Come Home is also melodramatic, melodrama being one of the potentials of the documentary drama; it is based on a range of tangentially tragic elements that anticipate a fatal outcome without going as far as the death of the protagonist.|
|25||Yet, if there is more to documentary drama than faithfulness to what happened, then there is also more to drama-documentary than mere reconstructions.
|26||Paget defines drama-documentary as follows:
The drama-documentary of the 1960s was heavily influenced by the British documentary tradition:
Drama-documentary provides access to situations that could not be filmed for a number of reasons. For Leslie Woodhead, the drama-documentary covers the same reality as the documentary: “the basic impulse behind the drama-documentary form is, I suggest, simply to tell a mass audience a real and relevant story involving real people. The basic problem is how to get it right after the event.” He points out the need for this type of production to be based on a particular case that the director tries to recreate with the utmost accuracy and rigour.
|27||Like documentary drama, drama-documentary draws on true facts and proven evidence that have been collected and condensed into fiction. Woodhead supports this definition, contending that “dramatized documentaries […] have been anchored in transcripts, tape recordings and eyewitness records.”|
|28||Paget establishes a link between full forms and amalgamated forms and traces their origin back to the dramatized story-documentary and, even further back, to the drama-in-documentary journalistic approach: “In the UK the drama-in-documentary took its colour primarily from investigative journalism. This led Granada’s current affairs World in Action to develop ‘dramadoc’”. As part of the family of socially-committed films, drama-documentaries have regularly addressed controversial issues and have often asked leaders for accountability. This issue-based genre focuses on moments of extreme political tension that crystallise opposition between individuals and institutions as proved by the sequences from Kosminsky’s The Government Inspector where the protagonist finds no help while he is undergoing extreme pressure from both journalists and politicians who fear for their careers.|
|29||In the 1970s, drama-documentaries favoured what was going on abroad and did not target the British political system. In this period, drama-documentary was widely used to educate British audiences about the political situation in the Eastern bloc. Granada Television, the producer of a number of drama-documentaries for ITV, contributed significantly to this movement, especially thanks to Leslie Woodhead, one of their top producers. The unique style that characterised his work spawned the term Woodhead Doctrine. The most famous example is The Man Who Wouldn’t Keep Quiet, produced in 1970 for the news programme World In Action. This TV film was based on the diary of a Soviet dissident, General Pyotr Grigorinko, whose wife managed to smuggle the soldier’s personal journal to the West.|
|30||Each of Woodhead’s works on the Eastern bloc was based on a specific case that the filmmaker would try to recreate with the utmost accuracy and rigour. His determination to respect the facts means that any melodramatic element that would discredit the story was carefully discarded. Ten years later, the drama-documentary form would be resurrected for Death of a Princess, directed by Antony Thomas and aired on 9th April 1980 on ITV, a film dealing with the situation of women in Saudi Arabia. The principle remained unchanged: to create a fictional production from real people and hard facts, while maintaining the chronology of events, people’s names and respecting the original story. In the case of Death of a Princess, loyalty to events, people and timing, which are the defining criteria of the genre, became the source of a major dispute between Great Britain and Saudi Arabia.|
|31||Drama-documentary is the fictional form that sticks closest to facts and some filmmakers choose it deliberately to take a stand on controversial affairs so as to try and redress past wrongs. As an example, Hillsborough (Charles McDougall, 1996) afforded viewers a privileged access to the tragedy that occurred in 1989 in the Sheffield football stadium, but it also reopened the controversy as to who was to be held responsible for the 96 deaths and the 766 casualties. While docudrama can be melodramatic at times, drama-documentary is often tragic, all the more so when, as in The Government Inspector, the death of the hero refers to the suicide of the protagonist from a true story.|
|32||The dramadoc claims to be fiction, yet affirms its connection to reality as being founded on truth and on what took place, as explained by John Corner: “The approach of ‘dramatiseddocumentary’ begins with a documentary base or core and uses dramatisation to overcome certain limitations and to achieve a more broadly popular and imaginatively powerful effect”. With the notable exception of Kosminsky who is a staunch supporter of dramadoc, most current filmmakers avoid the term on the ground that it is a source of trouble for producers and distributors, as the genre’s insistence on truth and veracity exposes it to controversies and lawsuits. Because of its claim to stick to facts, drama-documentary is the genre with the biggest needs for legal experts, which leads to censorship as explained by Derek Paget:
The freedom Leslie Woodhead enjoyed when shooting films criticising the Eastern bloc came to an end with the 1980s when the issues dramadoc filmmakers chose to raise were no longer relevant to foreign affairs but to domestic affairs. The treatment of the Falklands crisis represented a turning point in the history of the genre with the censorship imposed on The Falklands Play(Ian Curteis, 2002) broadcast twenty years after its expected date. On the same topic, Richard Eyre went through innumerable obstacles while producing Tumbledown (1988).
|33||The harsher the attack, the fiercer the retaliation on the part of those accused, hence the filmmakers’ need to recourse to legal contributors. Legal counsellors carry out their task before and during production but, strangely enough, are never to be seen during the debates following the broadcastings. While in the past, such debates would take place in studios between the interested parties, as in the case of Who Bombed Birmingham? (Michael Beckham, 1990), with the expansion of the internet the majority of these debates now take place on the web. While legal counsellors make sure that what is said and shown remains as close as possible to what actually happened and that little can be challenged in courts, filmmakers expose themselves to criticisms and accountability by participating in post-broadcast discussions held on the internet. For the filmmaker, this after-broadcast-service is designed to prove that he is ready to submit himself to the test of criticism and stand for the choices he made; it is a measure of his professionalism as a committed filmmaker. It is also a way of measuring the reception of films that claim to be informative rather than purely entertaining and to examine the reception among viewers of the arguments and standpoints put forward. Indirectly, it is a way to assess the popularity of opposing views. For a filmmaker like Peter Kosminsky, it is designed to keep close contact with fans, supporters and viewers.|
|34||Held at the premises of the TV broadcasters, the television debates that would follow the broadcasting of the dramadoc in the 1970s and 1980s were often the opportunity for opponents to discredit them on the ground that they were fictional. Today’s debates, which unfold on the internet, prove that the audience has acquired maturity and the questions no longer revolve around how true to reality the film is but around the way the filmmaker managed to obtain the information and the reaction of those involved when they learnt about the commissioning of a filmic production that could be detrimental to them.|
|35||In its early years, the 1960s, drama-documentary developed a style of representation that occasionally worked through metaleptic transgressions, the effects of which are defined by Christian Metz when writing about camera angles: “the uncommon angle makes us more aware of what we had merely forgotten—an identification with the camera (with ‘the author’s viewpoint’).” An apt example of film that includes metaleptic effects is Who Bombed Birmingham? about a group of Irish nationals who were arrested and wrongly sentenced for the bombings of two pubs in Birmingham in 1974. In this film, the director, Michael Beckham, encourages viewers to question the film as a medium. Stylistic devices are used to bring about reflexivity by insisting on the filmic process and disrupting the narrative. From the point of view of the documentary fiction genre, Who Bombed Birmingham? is a TV film on investigative journalism in which the work of the soundmen and cameramen is highlighted, drawing attention to the importance of journalism and investigation, thus breaking the suspension of disbelief associated with fiction.|
|36||This approach was fundamentally political and fitted in with the Reithian ideal of public service television as a medium designed for education.
Documentary Fiction and the Television Environment
|37||The link between film practices and terminology arose in the early days of cinema with Harry Watt’s North Sea (1938), to give one of the earliest examples. It addressed the difficulties of the fishing trade through a twenty-four hour epic featuring sailors on the high seas during which time an incident occurred. The first images show the sailors leaving their homes and heading for the port; the Captain kisses his wife goodbye while his first mate walks under the windows of the woman he is courting to greet her. From the very first minutes, the viewer witnesses a highly scripted representation. Yet, at the time, “there was little practical choice but to reconstruct […] given the nature of the camera/microphone technologies”, as explained by Derek Paget. In Nonfiction Film: A Critical History, Richard Meran Barsam is less understanding towards the filmmaker and states that:
What was considered as ingenuity in the inter-war period was viewed as deceitful after World War II when technological breakthroughs made it possible for the recording of sound and images to happen wherever the place. Questions were then raised as to why it was necessary to reconstruct and shoot past events and pass them off as documentary. The purpose was, of course, for the filmmaker to give viewers access to a filmic representation of events as witnessed by protagonists, the press, or as evidenced by legal documents. Yet, neither had such representations any testimonial dimension, nor were they the result of the imagination of the filmmaker only. Their hybrid nature was aptly rendered by structures combining the words “drama” and “documentary”. Calling them “docudrama” or “dramadoc” meant establishing a pact of trust with the audience that would allow the latter to see the film as either a faithful reconstruction of the facts (dramadoc) or a film of the “based on” type (docudrama).
|38||Reconstruction is one of the most salient features of the documentary fiction films which are meant to revisit recent controversial affairs. On a continuum ranging from reality to fiction, documentary fiction sits closer to the former, something Keith Beattie points to when he associates documentary fiction with journalistic programmes:
Being a central component of any informative programme, reconstruction requires special attention:
Lawyers and counsellors themselves are not mistaken, and if they constantly reassert the need to be true to reality, it is because they know that this is exactly what the viewer expects from a dramadoc, as explained by the ITC Programme Code:
Still about dramadoc, ever since the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act of 2011, the difference between fiction and dramadoc has been enshrined in a Code of Ethics which emphasises that:
In this statement, the IBA explicitly indicates the need for clear signs so the viewer is not led astray. However, credit is not assessed according to the degree of iconicity of the image or to the number of witnesses, as Andrew Goodwin and Paul Kerr explain:
These considerations clearly show the distance required when categorising the representations of reality, something producers take into account before commissioning a programme.
|39||Historically, the classification of television documentary fiction has had to adapt to changes in editorial practices and to frequent evolutions in the organisational charts of the channels; the successive names used to label these services testify to it. In theory, things are clear and if the News and Current Affairs department commissions a production combining fiction and reality that taps into current affairs, it can only be a dramadoc while docudrama would be the responsibility of the Drama department. Choosing one category or the other depends on the nature of the film’s link to reality. Free processing of events, implementing them in an environment where the link is metaphorical, or choosing not to respect chronology are all factors that lean towards docudrama and a commissioning by the Drama department. Yet, journalism itself tends to jeopardize these clear-cut distinctions and there is a trend for journalism on television to spill over into other genres including news reports and documentaries. Conversely, documentaries can be rewarded for their accuracy and factuality which would tend for them to lean towards journalism as borne out by Roger Graef’s productions. Roger Graef is best known for his year-long immersion in the Thames Valley police force, which culminated in Police (1982), a fly-on-the-wall documentary which was awarded a BAFTA for best factual series. Roger Graef also produced TV series for the journalistic programme Panorama.|
|40||The diversification of formulas, the current trend that consists in hybridising television creations and outsourcing productions have brought greater complexity to the organisational charts of the broadcasting companies, making it extremely difficult to determine which department is responsible for docudrama or dramadoc productions. Apart from the News and Current Affairs department and the Drama department, which commission distinct programmes, today there is no official terminology shared amongst channels for TV productions. For example, at the BBC, there are departments for “Factual and Learning,” “Documentary and Contemporary Factuals,” “Specialist Factual and Current Affairs and Arts,” which can all support any type of documentary fiction. ITV, via Granada Television, commissioned some of the most notable 1970s and 1980s drama-documentaries, and today has both “Drama” and “Factual” departments.|
|41||While the situation is clear for documentary, which has a special department called “Documentaries and Contemporary Factual” at the BBC, and simply “Documentaries” on Channel 4, the situation is still quite unclear for productions mixing fiction and documentary. Thus, at the BBC, the “Drama department” deals with independent films related to fictionalised documentary. However, the “Current Affairs department” produces films that somehow combine fiction and reality and are still quite close to those from the “Drama department.” Such was the case of Daniel Percival’s Dirty War, aired on 26 September 2004 on BBC1. Through its treatment and its theme − the impact of a nuclear explosion on the civilian population − it was reminiscent of The War Game by Peter Watkins, broadcast on BBC1 in 1985 and of Threads by Mick Jackson, broadcast in 1984 on BBC. Dirty War was produced by the “Current Affairs department” and its broadcast was followed by a discussion, as was the case of fiction films broadcast on BBC1’s Panorama programme; it benefited from a journalistic perspective and therefore from the credit associated with reportage.|
|42||The neologisms “actuality documentary” and “documentary magazine” have recently appeared in professional circles for programmes with journalistic value like World in Action or Panorama that reprocess current affairs; these programmes are designed for a wide audience which they reach by using fiction to offer simulations of potential industrial disasters and tragedies on a global scale.|
|43||Another factor of instability in the terminology results from the outsourcing of television productions. Independent production companies (“Indies”), who do not work with a particular channel or for a particular department, often commission programmes that fall within the category of docudrama. Independent production companies play the eclecticism card as a measure of financial strength, except for Brook Lapping Production, which has specialised in political documentaries. As for Endemol it operates almost exclusively within the realm of reality television. Eclecticism is an obligation for many companies which face financial obligations and the Mentorn company, which produced The Government Inspector, one of Kosminsky’s latest documentary fiction films, is also responsible for more mainstream programmes such as Britain’s Worst Driver (2002-2003) on Five and Bodyshock Half-Ton Man (2006) on Channel 4. The fact that an independent production company can invest in both documentary and reality TV programmes blurs its image.
Documentary Fiction as the Victory of Porosity
|44||Fiction is a unique way of understanding the world, something film has helped generalise and that television has helped popularise. For Raymond Williams, it is central to the understanding of our environment:
From a taxonomic point of view, fiction is too general a term to account for the wide variety of productions, and the need to label them accurately springs from the necessity to avoid the confusion that is commonly made between the various representations of the world offered by television.
|45||However, some filmmakers refuse strict classification arguing that categorizing films can be detrimental to their productions which may suffer from prejudice, especially if they do not wish to set the genre of their work in stone. According to Goodwin and Kerr,
The ties documentary fiction weaves between fiction and reality are such that it does not document the past only, but also the future. Indeed, anticipatory documentaries can be found under the same banner as docufiction, one such example being Peter Watkins’ The War Game, which staged an impending nuclear explosion. Likewise, by claiming that their work was inspired by Watkins’ films and that The War Game had been their prototype, the creators of the IF… series brought about a de facto categorisation of their productions as political fiction. They fall within the category of docudrama insofar as they rely on pre-enactment which means shooting scenarios of anticipation based on scientific calculations. Anticipatory fiction films that pre-enact the future do not only serve as entertainment, they provide valuable information to viewers about their environment. Their prophetic value often reveals a focus on fears or threats, as was the case with Smallpox, directed by Daniel Percival and aired on 5 February 2002 on BBC2. Incidentally, its production began in February 2001, seven months before 9/11, and about nine months before the anthrax attacks in the United States that autumn. In Simulations, Jean Baudrillard dismisses the notion of coincidence and endows fiction with prescience, with the prophetic power to capture, coalesce and articulate elements that otherwise pass unnoticed in everyday life:
Yet, more commonly, producers of trauma dramas offer a fictional staging of themes and topics already processed by other formats rather than anticipating the future, as proved by Smallpox and films from the IF … series. The public service dimension of such prescriptive television is clear in its ability to make risky subjects available to a wide audience. Social issues that need to be politically addressed are brought to life. This makes them both appealing and accessible. Within the highly competitive British television environment, where public television funding is often under threat, these productions aim to compete with the private sector. According to Jane Feuer, the trauma drama is, from a political point of view, part of the society’s endgame, “denoting a ‘massive loss of faith by individuals in public institutions’”. In this context, television serves as a bulwark against disillusionment and scepticism; it also comes to the rescue of politicians by playing the role of a public service that warns audiences about the dangers to their social, economic and political environments. These productions are reminders of the movie-of-the-week trauma drama of the 1980s on American television that was, in Feuer’s words “the eighties version of the ‘sociological film’ or ‘public service drama’ which resolved the traumas of the American family in a rejuvenation of public institutions by the people, the same promise that got Reagan elected.” Paget comes to a similar conclusion when he writes: “For more than fifty years the form [documentary fiction] has been a kind of ‘public service in itself.’”
|46||For those who oppose a taxonomic approach to documentary fiction, each production, with its combination of fictional elements and elements borrowed from reality, sits on an imaginary continuum ranging from the “purely” real to the “purely” fictional, thus complicating any attempt at classification. Keith Beattie, who spread the idea of continuum, contends that:
The legitimacy of this argument lies in the need for filmmakers to feel free to be inventive and approach their subject sensitively and not just in terms of strictly defined genres, an idea that is aptly encapsulated in Paget’s praise of porosity:
|47||The porous boundary between documentary and drama has produced highly creative treatments of the serious and the social, the historical and the public, the personal and the collective.
|48||As the quintessential postmodern medium, television generates self-referential forms of representation that deter any attempt at drawing up a taxonomy. The confusion is compounded by the hybrid nature of documentary fiction, a popular genre that claims to investigate burning issues through fiction. Documentary fiction is transgressive; it involves hybridity and empiricism and its failure to adhere to the rules of existing genres threatens attempts at classification.|
|49||Docudrama and dramadoc, subdivisions of documentary fiction, are terms that are connected to the notion of privileged accessibility, and they are the preferred formats for political investigations. As providers of essential pieces of information, which engage both documentary and fictional modes of involvement, they call for a reconsideration of the notions of factual television and of pact of trust with viewers.|
|50||Since documentary fiction alternates dramatic and documentary approaches, the boundaries between them are blurred and it becomes gradually more and more difficult to assess whether viewers are attracted by it as fiction or because of the truthfulness and credibility of the account it provides, that is to say the possibility of having a privileged access to the events that occurred.|
|51||Drama-documentary holds a very specific place in documentary fiction since it arouses expectations similar to those of documentaries. This is reinforced by the stance taken by the filmmakers of drama-documentary who promise to deliver a truthful account of the events and issues. Consequently, viewers envisage drama-documentary, and its reliance on a historic context and dramatic conventions, as not necessarily interfering with the main objective: to represent the essential “truth”. The fact that these films, which are very popular, do not claim to be part of the documentary genre implies that audiences allow filmmakers some leeway in their representations of the world, which means that the narrative can be “accurate” even if it is not historically true.|
|52||The task has been complicated in recent decades with the advent of reality TV which has further blurred the lines between fiction and reality and seriously impaired the implicit contract with the viewer about the nature of what is shown, as explained by Jacqueline Furby and Karen Randell in Screen Methods: Comparative Readings in Film Studies: “Television reality programmes are especially hard to categorise because they blur the line between news and entertainment: some even blur the line between fact and fiction.”|
|53||To avoid the confusion that may occur between these genres, it then falls upon documentary fiction directors to demonstrate to their critics that their job is not primarily to entertain but to inform, differently|
| The title of this article was inspired by Derek Paget’s book: No Other Way to Tell It. Dramadoc/Docudrama on Television, (Manchester: Manchester University Press,  2011).
 Patrick Charaudeau, Les Conditions d’une typologie des genres télévisuels d’information (Persée, Revues Scientifiques, 1997), http : // www.persee.fr /web/revues/home/ prescript / article/ reso_0751-7971_1997_num_15_81_2887, accessed 30 August 2014. All the translations from quotations in French are the author’s, unless otherwise stated.
 François Jost, Comprendre la télévision (Paris : Armand Colin, 2009), 44.
 Gérard Genette, Fiction et Diction, Introduction à l’architexte (Paris : Editions du Seuil, 2004).
 François Jost rejects the term documentary which, he claims, is not on the same level as fiction. This can be explained by the fact that documentary is envisaged as a form of fiction, and thus only a genre belonging to the archigenre of fiction.
 Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media : the Extensions of Man (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964), 8; John Fiske and John Hartley, Reading Television (London: Routledge, 2004), 3.
 Term used as a hypernym in the present article.
 Borrowed from the criticism of the nineteenth-century literature, naturalism and realism are often regarded as synonyms and used alternatively since both consist of stylistic devices designed to focus the attention of viewers on ordinary details of everyday life, although the former depicts life with more accuracy, adopting a scientific approach to it. Naturalism means also tragedy because of the importance of the social environment that acts as a deterministic element in the lives of the characters. For thorough explanations on this issue, see Raymond Williams, Realism, Naturalism and their Alternatives in Ron Burnett, Explorations in Film Theory: Selected Essays, (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1991), pp. 121-127.
 “[Documentaire et fiction] échangent leurs rôles et parfois leurs fonctions. Ils interagissent et s’interpénètrent. Mais il est moins aisé d’analyser les nouvelles formules qui en résultent. En se transformant l’un par l’autre, comme le veut toute interaction, documentaire et fiction abandonnent leurs positions et leurs définitions initiales”. Gérard Leblanc, Scénarios du réel, Tome 2, (Paris/Montréal: L’Harmattan, 1997), 153.
 The word “documentary” is still often synonymous with faithful, mechanic representations of the world.
 The Project is about Tony Blair’s first two premierships. The Government Inspector deals with David Kelly, the British scientist, who committed suicide on his return from Iraq.
 Leslie Woodhead, “IBA St. Andrew’s Consultation on Documentary Drama,” in Andrew Goodwin and Paul Kerr, Drama-Documentary, Dossier 19 (London: British Film Institute, 1984), 75.
 One of Leslie Woodhead’s latest documentaries, A Cry from the Grave (1999), was about the massacre of Srebrenica.
 Paget, No Other Way to Tell It, 135.
 “At the BBC, between 1946 and 1960, the Dramatised Documentary Group made a number of documentary programmes, which demanded dramatization due to the undeveloped state of the recording technology.” Goodwin and Kerr, Drama-Documentary, 3.
 “Following the row between the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia over the broadcasting of Death of a Princess, Lord Carrington declared, before the Middle East Association: ‘A bad film … I wish it had never been shown […] some incidents were clearly based on innuendo and rumour. The new formula of mixing fact with fiction, dramatisation masquerading as documentary, can be dangerous and misleading.’” Ibid., 97.
 “GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR, THE (2005) Controversial dramadoc about New Labour and the David Kelly affair; SHOOT TO KILL (1990) Drama-doc about an investigation into Northern Ireland policing; WARRIORS (1999) Powerful, horrific dramadoc about the UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia.”
 An investigation into the unsolved assassination of President George W. Bush, the president of the United States in office at the time of the shooting of the film.
 David Edgar, “Theater of Fact: A Dramatist’s Viewpoint,” in Alan Rosenthal, Why Docudrama? Fact-Fiction on Film and TV (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1999), 177.
 David Edgar, The Second Time as Farce: Reflections on the Drama of Mean Times (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1988), 265.
 Paget, No Other Way to Tell It, 136.
 Representation of the world through stylistic devices that are invisible so as to maintain the suspension of disbelief associated with fiction.
 Christian Metz, The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema [Le Signifiant imaginaire: Psychanalyse et cinéma, 1977] (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982), 55. Translation by Ben Brewster.
 Hodgson Terry, The Batsford Dictionary of Drama (London: Batsford, 1988), 100.
 Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 1: The Movement Image (L’Image-mouvement ), trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Haberjohn, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1986, chapters 6 to10.
 George W. Brandt, British Television Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Archive, 1981), 19.
 John Corner, The Art of Record. A Critical Introduction to Documentary (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1996), 34.
 Derek Paget, No Other Way to Tell It, 111.
 Ibid, 29.
 Leslie Woodhead, “The Guardian Lecture: Dramatized Documentary,” in Rosenthal, Why Docudrama?, 104.
 Ibid, 107.
 Derek Paget, No Other Way to Tell It, 205.
 An officer in the Soviet army, Grigorinko became a dissident. He was allowed to travel abroad for treatment and managed never to return to the USSR.
 “[…] leader and comment columns still uphold media independence, but generally are more hostile to the film this time […] Tory MP Robert Adley suggests ATV should lose its franchise. The North East Wales Institute for Higher Education loses a £300,000 contract with Saudi Arabia. British airways Concordes are banned from flying supersonic over Saudi Arabian territory. The Egyptian Actress Suzanne Abou Taleb who played the Princess in the film claims that promised acting roles have been cancelled in reprisal (Daily Mail, 6th May). […] On 29 May the papers announce that Lord Grade, President of ATV, is being sued by a team of American lawyers claiming to represent 600 million Moslems. The size of the damages sought varies: The Times puts the sum at $20 billion.” Goodwin and Kerr, Drama-Documentary, 97.
 John Corner, The Art of Record. A Critical Introduction to Documentary (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1996), 34.
 Derek Paget, No Other Way to Tell It, 88.
 For further information on the management of these two films on the burning issue of the Falklands War, see Georges Fournier, “The British Docudramas of the Falklands War” in Frames Cinema Journal, http://framescinemajournal.com/article/the-british-docudramas-of-the-falklands-war/, accessed 9 June 2016.
 Channel 4, Past Chats, The Government Inspector. http://www.channel4.com/programmes/the-government-inspector, accessed December 2009.
 Metz, The Imaginary Signifier, 63.
 From John Reith, one of the pioneers of the British Broadcasting Corporation.
 “The high moral tone and educative role Reith had set – to inform, educate and entertain – reinforced quality as a hallmark of the institution’s integrity.” Mary Debrett, Reinventing Public Service Television for the Digital Future (London: Intellect books, 2010), 34.
 Derek Paget, No Other Way to Tell It, 172.
 Richard Meran Barsam, Nonfiction Film: A Critical History (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1992) 104.
 Keith Beattie, Documentary Screens: Non-Fiction Film and Television, (Basingstoke, New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2004), 146.
 The ITC Programme Code, January 2002.
 Independent Broadcasting Authority. Code of Ethics, August 2011.
 Goodwin and Kerr, Drama-Documentary, 32.
 See Anthea Hucklesby and Azrini Wahidin, Criminal Justice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 60.
 The Factual and Learning Department commissioned Panorama, one of the main British news programmes which was first aired in 1953.
 Chris Alden, Media Directory 2005, Media Guardian (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 136-138.
 Ibid., 137.
 Barry Hines, the scriptwriter of Threads, also wrote Kes which was directed by Ken Loach.
 Though commissioned and financed by the BBC in 1965, The War Game was not broadcast until 1985, a year after Threads.
 Brook Lapping Productions produces documentaries and has won many awards: BAFTA, Broadcast Press Guild, US EMMY, Peabody. Among award-winning documentaries were The Death of Yugoslavia (1995), I Met Adolf Eichmann (2002) and The Fall of Milosevic (2003).
 Jonathan Bignell defines reality television as the “contrast between the usually private and intrusive material caught by surveillance or amateur cameras and the very public broadcasting of the material on television.” Jonathan Bignell, Introduction to Television Studies (London: Routledge, 2004), 13.
 Until 2002, Five was known as Channel 5.
 Bodyshock Half-Ton Man is a rehash of the formula launched by Norman Spurlock in his self-reflexive documentary Supersize Me (2004), which revealed the relationship between poor dietary habits and obesity.
 Raymond Williams, Ederyn Williams and Roger Silverstone, Television: Technology and Cultural Form (London: Routledge,  2003), 56.
 Goodwin and Kerr, Drama-Documentary, 1.
 Broadcast on BBC2 from 2004 to 2005.
 “A one-off drama by BBC news and current affairs shot in documentary style about a fictional bioterrorist attack in which the weapon is one of humankind’s most infectious diseases – smallpox.” The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2002/feb/06/firstnight.broadcasting, accessed 10 May 2014.
 Jean Baudrillard’s statement was about The Chinese Syndrome, an American cinematic film by James Bridges about an incident at an American nuclear plant. Its theatrical release, on 16 March 1979, took place only twelve days before the Three Mile Island accident.
 Jean Baudrillard, Simulacres et Simulations (Paris : Éditions Galilée, 1981), 83.
 Trauma Drama: phrase borrowed from Jane Feuer’s Seeing Through the Eighties: Television and Reaganism (Minneapolis: Duke University Press, 1995), 25-27.
 Paget, No Other Way to Tell It, 132.
 Feuer, Seeing Through the Eighties, 25-27.
 Paget, No Other Way to Tell It, 137.
 Ibid., 165-168.
 Goodwin and Kerr, Drama-Documentary, 1, in Beattie, Documentary Screens, 147.
 Tobias Ebbrecht-Hartmann and Derek Paget (Eds.), Docudrama on European Television: A Selective Survey, Basingstoke: Palgrave, MacMillan, 2016, 10.
 One of Channel 4’s much publicised programmes for 2015 was a docudrama on UKIP which the channel promoted and which met with much success from viewers. http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-31505966, accessed 15 August 2015.
 Jacqueline Furby and Karen Randell,Screen Methods: Comparative Readings in Film Studies (London: Wallflower, 2008), 146.
Georges Fournier, “Naming and Labelling Documentary Fiction: No Better Way to Tell It?”, in David Roche and Jean-François Baillon eds., “Terms that Matter: Naming and Labelling in English-Speaking Cinema”, Film Journal, 4 (2017). URL: http://filmjournal.org/fj4-fournier.
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Georges Fournier is Senior Lecturer in English Civilisation at the Department of Foreign Languages of the Jean Moulin University of Lyon. His main research interest lies in British authored television. He has published many articles on political docudrama and is currently conducting research in factual programming.
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