Cinéma vérité is a style of documentary filmmaking, combining naturalistic techniques with stylized cinematic devices of editing and camerawork, staged set-ups, and the use of the camera to provoke subjects. It is also known for taking a provocative stance toward its topics. Cinéma vérité can involve stylized set-ups and the interaction between the filmmaker and the subject, even to the point of provocation.
Some argue that the obvious presence of the filmmaker and camera was seen by most cinéma vérité filmmakers as the best way to reveal the truth in cinema. The camera is always acknowledged, for it performs the raw act of filming real objects, people, and events in a confrontational way. The filmmaker’s intention was to represent the truth in what he or she was seeing as objectively as possible, freeing people from any deceptions in how those aspects of life were formerly presented to them. From this perspective, the filmmaker should be the catalyst of a situation.
Ross McElwee, a filmmaker-anthropologist with a rare appreciation for the eccentric details who made Sherman’s March, belongs to the school of personal cinéma vérité. Michael Moore carries the format to an extreme.
Fly on the wall is a style of documentary-making used in film and television. The name derived from the idea that events are seen candidly, as a fly on a wall might see them. In the purest form of fly-on-the-wall documentary-making, the camera crew works as unobtrusively as possible; however, it is also common for participants to be interviewed, often by an off-camera voice.
Direct Cinema is a documentary genre that originated between 1958 and 1962 in North America, principally in the Canadian province of Quebec and the United States. It is largely concerned with the recording of events in which the subject and audience become unaware of the camera’s presence. It is now called a “fly on the wall” documentary.