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Documentary vs. Feature Film — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on November 28, 2023
A documentary presents factual information or real events, while a feature film is typically a fictional narrative made for entertainment.
Documentary vs. Feature Film — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Documentary and Feature Film

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Key Differences

Documentary and feature film are two distinct genres within the realm of cinema. A documentary aims to depict reality, focusing on actual events, people, and situations. They often seek to inform, educate, or shed light on particular subjects or events. Feature films, on the other hand, revolve around fictional narratives, weaving tales primarily for entertainment purposes, and can encompass a variety of genres like comedy, drama, and action.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 28, 2023
While documentaries emphasize truth and often employ interviews, archival footage, and narration to convey their message, feature films lean on scripts, actors, and orchestrated scenes to tell their stories. For instance, a documentary might explore the impact of climate change using expert testimonies and real-life evidence, whereas a feature film might craft a fictional tale set in a post-apocalyptic world affected by global warming.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 28, 2023
Furthermore, the intention behind both types of films often differs. Documentaries typically aim to raise awareness, provoke thought, or promote change regarding specific issues or subjects. Feature films, conversely, primarily focus on entertaining the audience, though they can also inspire, educate, or challenge societal norms.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 28, 2023
It's important to note, however, that the boundaries between documentaries and feature films can sometimes blur. Mockumentaries, for example, use the documentary format but present fictional events, while some feature films are based on true stories, adding dramatized elements to real events.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

Comparison Chart

Purpose

Depicts reality, informs or educates
Entertains with fictional narratives
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 28, 2023
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Content

Factual, real events and people
Scripted stories, fictional characters
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

Techniques

Interviews, archival footage, narration
Scripts, actors, orchestrated scenes
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Nov 28, 2023

Duration

Varies, but often shorter
Typically 90 minutes to 3 hours
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

Intention

Raise awareness, provoke thought
Entertainment, though can also inspire or challenge norms
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

Compare with Definitions

Documentary

Documentary focuses on real-life events and subjects.
The war documentary provided a harrowing look into the soldiers' experiences.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 06, 2023

Feature Film

Feature Film emphasizes scripted narratives and characters.
The feature film's storyline was both engaging and suspenseful.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 06, 2023

Documentary

Documentary is a non-fictional film that presents factual information.
The documentary about marine life was enlightening.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 06, 2023

Feature Film

Feature Film is a primary or main cinematic production, often fictional.
The feature film was a box office hit.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 06, 2023

Documentary

Documentary aims to inform, educate, or raise awareness.
She was moved by the documentary on homelessness.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 06, 2023

Feature Film

Feature Film typically has a longer runtime, usually over an hour.
The feature film lasted two and a half hours.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 06, 2023

Documentary

Documentary seeks to depict truth and reality.
The documentary on climate change showcased undeniable evidence.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 06, 2023

Feature Film

Feature Film is made primarily for entertainment.
Audiences loved the comedic elements of the feature film.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 06, 2023

Documentary

Consisting of, concerning, or based on documents.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 06, 2023

Feature Film

Feature Film can span various genres, from drama to sci-fi.
The feature film was a mix of romance and action.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 06, 2023

Documentary

Presenting facts objectively without editorializing or inserting fictional matter, as in a book or film.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 06, 2023

Documentary

A work, such as a film or television program, presenting political, social, or historical subject matter in a factual and informative manner and often consisting of actual news films or interviews accompanied by narration.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 06, 2023

Documentary

Of, related to, or based on documents.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 06, 2023

Documentary

Which serves to document (record and:or illustrate) a subject.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 06, 2023

Documentary

(of a film, book etc) Presented objectively without the insertion of fictional matter.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 06, 2023

Documentary

A film, TV program, publication etc. which presents a social, political, scientific or historical subject in a factual or informative manner.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 06, 2023

Documentary

Pertaining to written evidence; contained or certified in writing.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 06, 2023

Documentary

A film or TV program presenting the facts about a person or event
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 06, 2023

Documentary

Relating to or consisting of or derived from documents
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 06, 2023

Documentary

Documentary often uses interviews, footage, and expert testimonies.
The documentary incorporated interviews from survivors.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 06, 2023

Common Curiosities

Can documentaries be entertaining?

Yes, while documentaries aim to inform, they can also be engaging and entertaining.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

Do documentaries always present unbiased truths?

While documentaries aim for truth, they can sometimes reflect the filmmaker's perspective or bias.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

Are all feature films long?

While many are, some feature films can be shorter, but they're generally longer than short films.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

What's the primary purpose of a documentary?

A documentary seeks to inform, educate, or raise awareness about real-life subjects.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

Are feature films always fictional?

While typically fictional, some feature films are based on true stories but with dramatized elements.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

Are actors used in documentaries?

While documentaries mainly feature real people, reenactments within them might use actors.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

How do documentaries gather their information?

Through research, interviews, archival footage, and firsthand observations.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

Can a feature film be educational?

Yes, while primarily for entertainment, feature films can also educate or provide insights.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

Is a documentary's content always current?

No, documentaries can cover historical events, eras, or long-standing issues.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

Do feature films always have a clear resolution?

No, some feature films are open-ended or ambiguous in their conclusions.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

What's a "mockumentary"?

A mockumentary is a fictional work styled like a documentary, often for comedic effect.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

Are biopics considered feature films or documentaries?

Biopics are feature films based on real-life figures but often include dramatized events.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

Can documentaries use music and cinematography for effect?

Yes, many documentaries utilize these elements to enhance storytelling and mood.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

Can feature films be based on books or plays?

Yes, many feature films are adaptations of books, plays, or other sources.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 28, 2023

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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