Movies: Modern documentaries are a balancing act

<p>One of the awards to be given at the 2008 <a id=Naperville Independent Film Festival.  |  Jonathan Miano/Staff photographer

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One of the awards to be given at the 2008 Naperville Independent Film Festival.  |  Jonathan Miano/Staff photographer

Tell someone that you want to take them to see a documentary movie at the Naperville Film Festival and they may have flashbacks of the whirring sounds of a 16mm projector and the uninspired commentary on high school subject images. But today, a well-crafted documentary can entertain and still educate, persuade or motivate.

Production levels of documentaries have become impressive over the past few years. The pace is faster, the editing crisper and the presentation more polished. Yet, the message still matters. A regular challenge for Naperville Film Festival jurors is to determine how effectively a documentary stays true to its perspective in a balanced manner. 

An impressive documentary film will engage the viewer with a balancing tight-walk between the desired point of view and alternative perspectives. If the desired point of view is not well supported, then the film falls short of achieving influence. If the emphasis on a single perspective is heavy handed, then the film becomes a promotional vehicle.

At what point in a documentary do you feel that the purpose has shifted from promoting a message to becoming a commercial?

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