Home > Documentary

An archive on the history of Bengali cinema is incomplete without featuring documentaries. What exactly is a documentary? Is it a non-fiction motion picture intended to document reality? Or is it, as American film critic Pare Lorentz would say, “a factual film which is dramatic”?  This term was first coined by Scottish director John Grierson’s in his review of Robert Flaherty’s Moana (1926), where he defined it as “creative treatment of actuality”. Some 26 years before that, at the turn of the century, Bengal witnessed Hiralal Sen’s attempts at documenting “actuality” through his “factuals”. Back in those days, nobody used the term “documentary” for these works, or even for those made by Aurora Film Corporation and Madan Theatre a little later. The history of documentaries made in Bengal and by those from Bengal needs to take into account ‘Talking Head films’ to works where the lines between fiction and non-fiction have got blurred as well as other forms that lie in-between. In this segment, BFA gives an overview of the lives, works and accolades of 70 directors who worked, or began working in the last century. Bolstered by the wealth of their years of experience, some are continuing to experiment with both form and content even in 2022. Few have even competed with the best minds of world cinema and brought home the most coveted awards in the global documentary circuit.

In 2024, we extend our ambit further and include select works of other directors who began working in this century. In our sustained effort to highlight the efforts of those behind the camera, we are also including an overview of the works of select technicians without whom documentaries of this century would not have been engaging enough.