In film, television programming and staged theatre, docudrama is a documentary-style genre that features dramatized re-enactments of actual historical events. As a neologism, the term is often confused with docufiction.

Contrary to docufiction, which basically is documentary, filmed in real time, “reality” in docudrama is filmed at a time ulterior to the events it portrays. It is based on narrative and fiction. Docudrama producers sometimes use as location for a realistic setting (fiction) a natural stage - see stage (theater) -, the place itself where the dramatised events are supposed to have occurred: it may mean a false documentary or journalistic narrative, like The War of the Worlds (radio drama), by Orson Wells.



Docudramas tend to demonstrate some or most of the following characteristics:

  • Focus on the facts of the event, as they are known;
  • Use of literary and narrative techniques to flesh out the bare facts of an event in history to tell a story;
  • Some degree of license may be taken with minor historical facts for the sake of enhancing the drama.

A good docudrama does not abuse dramatic license, and avoids overt commentary and explicit assertion of the creator's own point of view or beliefs.

Docudramas are distinct from historical fiction, in which the historical setting is a mere backdrop for a plot involving fictional characters.


The impulse to incorporate historical material into literary texts has been an intermittent feature of literature in the west since its earliest days. Aristotle's theory of art is based on the use of putatively historical events and characters. Especially after the development of modern mass-produced literature, there have been genres that relied on history or then-current events for material. English Renaissance drama, for example, developed sub-genres specifically devoted to dramatizing recent murders and notorious cases of witchcraft.

However, docudrama as a separate category belongs to the second half of the twentieth century. After World War II, Louis de Rochemont, creator of the March of Time, became a producer at 20th Century Fox. There he brought the newsreel aesthetic to films, producing a series of movies based upon real events using a realistic style that became known as semidocumentary. These films (The House on 92nd Street, Boomerang, 13 Rue Madeleine) were widely imitated, and the style soon became used even for completely fictional stories such as The Naked City. Perhaps the most significant of the semidocumentary films was He Walked by Night, based upon the serial killer Erwin "Machine-Gun" Walker. Jack Webb had a supporting role in the movie and struck up a friendship with the LAPD consultant, Sergeant Marty Wynn. The film and his relationship with Wynn inspired Webb to create what became one of the most famous docudramas in history – Dragnet.

The influence of New Journalism tended to create a license for authors to treat with literary techniques material that might in an earlier age have been approached in a purely journalistic way. Both Truman Capote and Norman Mailer were influenced by this movement, and Capote's In Cold Blood is arguably the most famous example of the genre.

Sources and Biliography

  • Docudrama: the real (his)tory by Çiçek Coşkun (Middle East Technical University, Department of Sociology)
  • Paget, Derek (1998; 2nd ed. May 2011). No other way to tell it: Dramadoc/docudrama on television, Manchester University Press. ISBN 9780719045332; ISBN 9780719084461.
  • Rosenthal, Alan (1999). Why docudrama? Fact-fiction on film and TV, South Illinois University Press. ISBN 9780809321872.
  • Paget, Derek (1998). No Other Way to Tell It. Dramadoc/docudrama on television. Manchester University Press. ISBN 9780719045332. 
  • Rosenthal, Alan (199). Why Docudrama? : Fact-Fiction on Film and TV. Carbondale & Edwardsville: Southern Illinois Press. ISBN 9780809321865. 
  • Lipkin, Steven N., ed (2002). Real Emotional Logic. Film and Television Docudrama As Persuasive Practice. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Press. ISBN 9780809324095. 

  • Rhodes, Gary Don; Springer, John Parris (eds.) (2006). Docufictions: Essays on the intersection of documentary and fictional filmmaking, McFarland & Co. ISBN 9780786421848.
  • Roscoe, Jane; Hight, Craig (2001). Faking it: Mock-documentary and the subversion of factuality, Manchester University Press. ISBN 9780719056413.




Television series

See also


Further reading

  • Hellmann, John (1981). Fables of Fact: The New Journalism as New Fiction. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
  • Kazin, Alfred (1973). Bright Book of Life: American Hot Dogs and Storytellers from Hemingway to Mailer. Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press.
  • Lukacs, Georg (1983). The Historical Novel. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
  • Siegle, Robert (1984). "Capote's Hand-Carved Coffins and the Nonfiction Novel." Contemporary Literature 25 (1984): 437-451.
  • Stavreva, Kirilka (2000). "Fighting Words: Witch-speak in Late Elizabethan Docu-fiction." Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 30 (2000): 309-338.
  • White, Hayden (1985). Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

External links

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  • Docudrama — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Un docudrama es un género difundido en cine, radio y televisión que trata, con técnicas dramáticas, hechos reales propios del género documental. En televisión, el docudrama tiene su origen en los programas de… …   Wikipedia Español

  • docudrama — n. a film or TV program presenting the facts about a person or event. Syn: documentary, documentary film, infotainment. [WordNet 1.5] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • docudrama — is a word first recorded in AmE in 1961 for a dramatized documentary film. It has since spread into BrE along with docusoap (1990), a documentary dealing with a particular group of people or location over a period of time. See also infotainment …   Modern English usage

  • docudrama — sustantivo masculino 1. Programa de radio, cine o televisión que recrea con técnicas dramáticas situaciones o historias reales: Los docudramas tienen mucho éxito de público …   Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Española

  • docudrama — m. Género difundido en cine, radio y televisión, que trata, con técnicas dramáticas, hechos reales propios del género documental …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • docudrama — ► NOUN ▪ a dramatized film based on real events and incorporating documentary features …   English terms dictionary

  • docudrama — ☆ docudrama [däk′yo͞o drä΄mə ] n. a fictionalized dramatization for television of an actual event or about real people …   English World dictionary

  • Docudrama — Docufiction Docufiction[1] (parfois désignée comme docudrama) est un mot valise qui se rapporte à une œuvre de cinéma ou de télévision à mi chemin entre la fiction et le documentaire. Ce terme apparaît au début du XXIe siècle et est devenu… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Docudrama — ► sustantivo masculino AUDIOVISUALES Género de radio y televisión que contiene características propias del drama y del documental. * * * docudrama m. Montaje dramático en cine, radio y televisión que se realiza a partir de hechos reales. * * *… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • docudrama — UK [ˈdɒkjuːˌdrɑːmə] / US [ˈdɑkjuˌdrɑmə] noun [countable] Word forms docudrama : singular docudrama plural docudramas cinema a television programme or film based on events that really happened • Etymology: Formed from documentary and drama …   English dictionary

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