Moana, by Robert Flaherty, the first docufiction in film history (1926)

Docufiction (or docu-fiction), often confused with docudrama, is the cinematographic combination of documentary and fiction, this term often meaning narrative film.[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.[3]

More precisely, it is a documentary mixed with fictional elements,[4] in real time, filmed when the events take place, and in which the main character or characters—often portrayed by non-professional or amateur actors—are essentially playing themselves, or slightly fictionalized versions of themselves, in a fictionalized scenario. In this sense, docufiction may overlap to an extent with some aspects of the mockumentary format, but the terms are not synonymous.

A film genre in expansion, it is adopted by a number of experimental filmmakers.

The neologism 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]


The term involves a way of making films already practiced by such authors as Robert Flaherty, one of the fathers of documentary,[15][16] and Jean Rouch, later in the 20th century.

Being both fiction and documentary,[17] docufiction is a hybrid genre,[18] raising ethical problems[19][20][21][22][23][24][25] 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[26] allows one to consider him as the father of a subgenre called ethnofiction.[27][28] This term means: ethnographic documentary film with natives who play fictional roles. Making them play a role about themselves will help portray reality, which[29] 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.

Docudrama and mockumentary

In contrast, docudrama is usually a fictional and dramatized recreation[30] 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). However, "docudrama" refers specifically to telefilms or other television media recreations that dramatize certain events often with actors.

A mockumentary 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.[31] Whereas mockumentaries are usually fully scripted comedies or dramas that merely adopt some aspects of documentary format as a framing device, docufictions are usually not scripted, instead placing the participants in a fictionalized scenario while portraying their own genuine reactions and their own improvisational dialogue and character development.

First docufictions by country

Other notable examples

See also


  1. ^ Reality and documentary – at Six Types Of Documentary, article by Girish Shambu (blog)
  2. ^ An Introduction to Genre Theory Archived November 18, 2011, at the Wayback Machine by Daniel Chandler at Aberystwyth University
  3. ^ A creative treatment of actuality – article by Peter Biesterfeld at Videomaker, 08/07/2015
  4. ^ 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
  5. ^ What is docufiction? – See Section II, pages 37 to 75 (four chapters) Archived September 11, 2011, at the Wayback Machine of the thesis by Prof. Theo Mäusli
  6. ^ Indie Matra Bhumi (The Motherland) – Cannes Film Festival
  7. ^ Ablel Ferrara’s docufiction Archived January 19, 2012, at the Wayback MachineVenice Film Festival
  8. ^ The Savage Eye: White Docu-Fiction & Black Reality Archived September 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine at Tribeca Film Festival
  9. ^ Brian De Palma's On His Iraq Docu-Fiction Comeback at The Huffington Post – Toronto International Film Festival and Venice Film Festival
  10. ^ Darius Mehrjui’s film Diamond 33Venice Film Festival
  11. ^ New Film Events – London Short Film Festival
  12. ^ Oscilloscope 'Howl' for Off Beat Docu-Fiction Sundance Selection Archived December 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine at Ion Cinema
  13. ^ Docufiction Archived 2011-09-01 at the Wayback Machine at several film festivals
  14. ^ See: Hybrids (fiction/nonfiction films) at External links
  15. ^ Definition of documentary – New Frontiers in American documentary (American Studies at The University of Virginia)
  16. ^ The Impulse of Documentary-Fiction Archived March 19, 2012, at the Wayback Machine – Paper at Transart Institute Archived 2011-08-31 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ (NON)FICTION AND THE VIEWER: RE-INTERPRETING THE DOCUMENTARY FILM Archived 2012-03-25 at the Wayback Machine – Paper by Tammy Stone, Avila University
  18. ^ See hybrid genre Archived September 11, 2011, at the Wayback Machine – page 50, thesis on docufiction by Prof. Theo Mäusli
  19. ^ Open-ended Realities – article by Luciana Lang at Latineos
  20. ^ The appeal of hybrid documentary forms in West Africa at Project Muse
  21. ^ Ethics and Documentary Filmmaking – Article by Marty Lucas at Center for Social Media (American University in Washington, D.C)
  22. ^ 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
  23. ^ What to Do About Documentary Distortion? Toward a Code of Ethics – Article by Bill Nichols at
  24. ^ Documentary Film Prompts-Ethics in Documentary/Fiction vs. Documentary – Paper by Ardavon Naimi at University of Texas at Dallas
  25. ^ Ethics and Filmmaking in Developing Countries at Unite For Sight
  26. ^ Jean Rouch 1917-2004, A Valediction – Article by Michael Eaton at Rouge
  27. ^ Glossary at MAITRES_FOUS.NET
  28. ^ Jean Rouch and the Genesis of Ethnofiction, thesis by Brian Quist, Long Island University
  29. ^ "Ethnofiction: drama as a creative research practice in ethnographic film." Journal of Media Practice 9, no. 3(2008), eScholarID:1b5648, article by Johannes Sjöberg
  30. ^ See Docudrama: the real (his)tory Confusion of genres – Page 2 on the thesis by Çiçek Coşkun (New York University School of Education)
  31. ^ 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
  32. ^ Why 'Moana,' the First Docufiction in History, Deserves a New Life – article by Laya Maheshwari at Indiewire, July 3, 2014
  33. ^ 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
  34. ^ Maria do Mar at IMdb
  35. ^ L'Or des mers at IMdb
  36. ^ Zombie and the Ghost Train (1991)Review/Film Festival; How a Zombie Became One With Alcohol and Self-Pity
  37. ^ Boys Soldiering in an Army of Crime – article by Stephen Holden, NY Times, January 17, 2003
  38. ^ How the Arab Spring Changed the Arab Screen and Why You Need to Start Paying Attention – review by Ronan Doyle, November 5, 2013
  39. ^ Trying to find beauty in the darkness of Iraq review by Salar Jaff and Ned Parker at Los Angeles Times, June 23, 2011
  40. ^ Tabu – review by Philip French, The Guardian, July 21, 2013
  41. ^ Robert J. Flaherty, Who Blurred the Line Between Nonfiction and Fiction in Film – article by Andy Websteraug, NY Times, August 3, 2016
  42. ^ Ala-Arriba! at IMDb
  43. ^ ' Luisiana Story,' a Flaherty Film About a Boy in the Bayou Country, at the Sutton – article by Bosley Crowther, NY Times, August 3, 2016
  44. ^ Out of the Bowery’s Shadows (Then Back In) – article by Dave Kehr, February 24, 2012
  45. ^ One drink over the line – article by J.R. Jones at the Chicago Reader, February 16, 2012
  46. ^ "Cruel Camera, FAKERY in Wildlife Documentaries". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. CBC news, the fifth estate. 2008-11-26. event of 1958. Archived from the original on 2009-01-31.
  47. ^ The Film Is the Search: J. Hoberman on Jean Rouch's Moi, Un Noir[dead link] – article by J. Hoberman, Artforum International, November 2015
  48. ^ "Chicago Cinema Forum". 2007-08-29. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  49. ^ India: Matri Bhumi Archived September 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine – Article by Doug Cummings at Filmjourney Archived 2015-10-29 at the Wayback Machine (March 18th, 2007)
  50. ^ Digitally cleaned 'India, Matri Bhumi' screened at Vienna film festival – Article at IBN Live
  51. ^ Christopher, Rob (2007-08-29). "Q: What Do You Call a Movie That's Getting Its Chicago Premiere 48 Years After Being Made?". Chicagoist. Archived from the original on 2013-06-28. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  52. ^ Come Back, Africa: The Films of Lionel Rogosin, Volume II (review) by Caitlin McClune at Project Muse
  53. ^ The Human Pyramid at IMdb.
  54. ^ See Acto da Primavera
  55. ^ Belarmino – reference note at Letterbox
  56. ^ David Holzman's Diary – review by Jaime N. Christley at Slant Magazine, June 13, 2011
  57. ^ I clowns: Fellini's Mockumentary – article at The Artifice
  58. ^ Revue by Jamie Havlin at Louder than War
  59. ^ Frames from scenes at MMM
  60. ^ Trevico-Torino (viaggio nel Fiat-Nam at IMdb
  61. ^ Despite success of Les Ordres, filmmaker Michel Brault preferred fact to fiction – article by Robert Everett-Green at The Globe and Mail, April 14, 2017
  62. ^ Lives more interesting than movies – article by Don Shewey, Soho News, June 18, 1980
  63. ^ Gente da Praia da Vieira
  64. ^ Trás-os-Montes Archived 2012-10-02 at the Wayback Machine at Harvard Film Archive Archived 2012-12-31 at the Wayback Machine by António Reis and Margarida Cordeiro
  65. ^ [ António Reis and Margarida Cordeiro at UCLA
  66. ^ Rep Pick: Ana – Review by Aaron Cutler at The L Magazine
  67. ^ After the Axe at IMDb
  68. ^ After the Axe – reference note with film online by Sturla Gunnarsson, National Film Board of Canada
  69. ^ The Masculine Mystique - reference note with film online by John N. Smith and Giles Walker, National Film Board of Canada
  70. ^ Screen: '90 Days,' Canadian comedy – review by Janet Maslin, NY Times, 1986
  71. ^ Sitting in Limbo – reference note with film at Reel Canada
  72. ^ Gwynne Dyer: A shortage of sperm – commentary by Gwynne Dyer, December 2012
  73. ^ Train of Dreams – reference note at ONF
  74. ^ Train of Dreams at the [IMDb]
  75. ^ Welcome to Canada – reference note by John N. Smith at ONF with film online
  76. ^ The Company of Strangers – reference note at ONF with film for download
  77. ^ Life, and Nothing More – review by Tina Hassannia at Inreviewonline, September 5, 2011
  78. ^ On the Knife’s Edge: Pedro Costa’s In Vanda’s Room – review by Travis Hoover at Slant Magazine, July 5, 2007
  79. ^ In Vanda's Room – review by Richard Brody at The New Yorker
  80. ^ Ten – review by Roger Ebert, April 11, 2003
  81. ^ Ten – review by Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian, 27 Sep 2002
  82. ^ Ten – review by Rolando Caputo at Senses of Cinema, December 2003
  83. ^ Life, Assembled One Room at a Time review by Manohla Dargis, NY Times, August 3, 2007
  84. ^ Colossal Youth is a colossal confusion – review by Samuel Wigley, April 29, 2008
  85. ^ Criminals Gone Wild review by Logan Hill, NY Magazine, January 7, 2008
  86. ^ Crime Porn (With Simulated Action) – review by [1], January 7, 2008
  87. ^ Our Beloved Month of August – review by Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian, January 28, 2018
  88. ^ film/review/our-beloved-month-of-august Our Beloved Month of August – review by Glenn Heath Jr. at Slant Magazine, September 7, 2010
  89. ^ "A meditation on what it means to be marginal". Montreal Gazette, May 29, 2009.
  90. ^ A Study of Time, Love and Decay in Genoa – review by Stephen Holden, August 3, 2011
  91. ^ The Wolf's Mouth – review by Neil Young at The Hollywood Reporter, October 14, 2010
  92. ^ Closed Curtain review – Iranian auteur confronts depression and creativity – review by Mark Kermode, The Guardian, September 6, 2015
  93. ^ ‘Closed Curtain’ Directed8 by Jafar Panahi And Kambuzia Partovi – review by Christopher Bell at IndieWire, July 10, 2014
  94. ^ Jafar Panahi’s joy ride – review by Jonathan Romney, The Guardian, November 1, 2015
  95. ^ Jafar Panahi’s Remarkable “Taxi” – review by Richard Brody, New Yorker, October 13, 2015
  96. ^ "Tuktuq – Film de Robin Aubert". Films du Québec, March 2, 2017
  97. ^ "«Mad Dog Labine»: irrésistiblement «rough»". Le Devoir, April 6, 2019

Sources and bibliography

THESES online

  • (in English) Docufiction in the Digital Age – thesis by Tay Huizhen, National University of Singapore
  • (in English) The Zulu Mask: The Role of Creative Imagination in Documentary Film – thesis by Clifford Derrick, Faculty of Arts, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
  • (in English) Docudrama: the real (his)tory thesis by Çiçek Coşkun (New York University School of Education)
  • (in English) Issues in contemporary documentary by Jane Chapman at Google Books (pages 1 to 34)


  • (in English) Shaping the Real: Directorial imagination and the visualisation of evidence in the hybrid documentary – article by Janet Merewether at Scan, Media Department at Macquarie University, Sydney
  • (in English) Docufiction: Where Art and Life Merge and Diverge– Article by Julie Drizin at Makers Quest 2.0
  • (in English) New Media Documentary – Paper by Gunthar Hartwig
  • (in English) Docudrama: the real (his)tory
  • (in English) Panel: At The Edge of Truth: Hybrid Documentaries at Vox Talk magazine
  • (in English) The dual phase oscillation hypothesis and the neuropsychology of docu-fiction film – article by Dyutiman Mukhopadhyay, Consciousness, Literature and the Arts, vol. 16, no. 1, April 2015
  • (in English) A creative treatment of actuality – paper by Peter Biesterfeld at Videomaker, August 7, 2015
  • (in English) The art paradox – article by Bert Oliver at Thought Leader, September 17, 2012

  • (in French) Le documentaire historique au péril du « docufiction – thesis by François Garçon (abstract in English and French)
  • (in French) 3 questions à…Isabelle Veyrat-Masson – interview (Le Journal du CNRS)
  • (in French) Peter Watkins, un cinéaste maudit article at Critikat

  • (in Italian) Un genere cinematografico: la docu-fiction. Il caso di 150 ore a Pavia by Laura Marchesi (thesis – abstract)


  • (in English) Paget, Derek (1998). No Other Way to Tell It. Dramadoc/docudrama on television. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-4533-2.
  • (in English) Rosenthal, Alan (199). Why Docudrama? : Fact-Fiction on Film and TV. Carbondale & Edwardsville: Southern Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-8093-2186-5.
  • (in 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.