When to use direct cinema vs. cinéma vérité.

Documentarians can employ direct cinema or cinéma vérité to explore a subject. Learn the differences between the two techniques, and when to use each.

Direct cinema and cinéma vérité are documentary styles. Both styles traditionally use live and synchronous sound, hand-held cameras, and lightweight equipment — and they both ultimately seek truth through film.

But there’s a primary difference between the two: direct cinema keeps the filmmaker out of the documentary, and cinéma vérité inserts the filmmaker into it. Let’s compare direct cinema vs. cinéma vérité to uncover when and why you’d use each style.

Observe with direct cinema.

Direct cinema observes a subject without interacting with it. The filmmaker doesn’t insert their opinion or biases — it’s an exploratory process that aims to be as objective as possible. Charlotte Zerwin and Albert and David Maysles’ Gimme Shelter is an entertaining and timeless example of direct cinema done well.

If your goal is to capture reality through a neutral lens, direct cinema may be the approach for you.

Create a connection with cinéma vérité.

On the other hand, cinéma vérité drops the filmmaker directly into the subject matter — the filmmaker is a part of the documentary, as is the camera.

Cinéma vérité asks questions and offers opinions to provoke the truth and coax it out. If you have a strong stance on a political or social issue, cinéma vérité is a vehicle to express and defend your opinions — much like Chris Marker and his 1962 documentary, Le Joli Mai.

In short, direct cinema lets viewers form their own opinions while cinéma vérité offers its own opinion and shares it with viewers. Discover more about film and then explore everything you can do with Adobe Premiere Pro.