Fact or Fiction: The Thin Line Between Documentaries and Docudramas

Apr 26, 2024 | Articles, Media

Do you prefer to watch a documentary or a docudrama? Your answer will be based on how much fact or fiction you are looking for in a film. These two genres constitute a gray area in filmmaking that challenges traditional ideas about what storytelling is.

With both genres, the filmmaker’s aim is to educate us on actual events that happened in the world. But, while the approach in documentaries sticks strictly to facts, that is not the case in docudramas. Docudramas allow for more creativity. The filmmaker has the freedom to manipulate some minor details of the story to make it more interesting to viewers. They can create dialogues that didn’t happen and even change character names and other elements of the story.

This is what makes docudramas the perfect blend of facts and fiction. This dramatic liberty is changing the game for documentary makers, and it accounts for why documentary films have grown more popular as a part of journalism. On the other hand, many narrative films have also adopted documentary-like aesthetics, giving rise to a new wave of hybrid films that cannot be categorized traditionally. In this article, we’ll look at some of these films that have wonderfully blurred the lines between fact and fiction, leaving us wowed by this effect.


The Rise of Online Gambling: Documentaries vs. Docudramas

With the rise of online gambling platforms came a new wave of films that explore the details of gambling online. This is only natural, since films are known to reflect on real-life developments. A list of these new films about gambling online would, of course, contain mostly regular narrative movies, but documentaries—and even docudramas—would not be entirely absent.

One example of a good docudrama film that focuses on the online gambling world is the film Bet Raise Fold, which documents the sharp rise of the online poker industry. This film takes us through the journey of a group of young professional players in the world of online poker. They are excited when they discover how lucrative it is, and then the movie tells us about the hard times online poker industry went through in the early 2000s. While it is based on real events, featuring actual interviews, it also uses dramatized scenes and fictionalized dialogue to make the story come alive.


Nanook of the North

Anyone who really knows films will not hesitate to point you to this film when asked what the first documentary film is. It is a real classic focusing on the life of an Inuk man and his family living in northern Canada. They live a primitive life in the extreme arctic conditions, hunting their food and burning wood to survive the harsh weather.

During its release, it was marketed by the filmmaker as a documentary. But this was in the early days of film, and the genre had not been strictly defined. Viewers watched it as an observatory account of Inuit life. But since then, critics have revealed that the film contains several staged and fictionalized elements. In fact, they claim the filmmaker incorporated his own stereotypical views about Inuit life into the film.

For example, even though the main character often hunted with guns, the filmmaker requested him to hunt with more rudimentary tools. Nonetheless, audiences enjoyed—and still enjoy—the groundbreaking cinematography.



This film gave critics and audiences a new perspective on the thin line between fact and fiction when it was released. It is a genius work, shot in a minimalist and observational style.

It documents the daily lives of the filmmaker’s family, capturing their routines, interactions, and frustrations within the confines of their small apartment in China. The filmmaker grounds the film in facts, but the actors frequently play different versions of themselves, and she incorporates some carefully scripted scenes to create a narrative arc.

The result is a hybrid work that cannot be easily categorized, existing somewhere between a traditional documentary and a fictionalized drama.


My Winnipeg

This film is another one of those genius productions with little regard for the line between fact and fiction. It crosses that line often, and the result is a dreamlike exploration of the filmmaker’s hometown. He weaves his personal memories together with folklore and a bit of fiction to give us a truly unique portrait of his hometown, illuminating the ‘My’ in the title.

Throughout the film, we are led smoothly between actual interviews, archival footage, and staged reenactments of events.


American Animals

The film is based on a real-life book heist. In it, we follow an American heist gang as they try to steal rare books from a university library. It is considered a docudrama because of its unique approach to storytelling.

The film often cuts between interview segments with real-life members of the heist gang and scenes recreated by actors portraying them. This way, it explores the complexities of truth and perception, as the real-life individuals often give differing accounts of the events.

Read On – Our Latest Top Documentaries Lists

Thomas B.