We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more


A History of the Non-Fiction Film

Second Revised Edition

Erik Barnouw

Publication Date - January 1993

ISBN: 9780195078985

416 pages
5-5/16 x 8 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $19.99

This updated edition of the classic work on documentary filmmaking surveys the history of the genre from 1895 to the 1990s


Now brought completely up to date, the new edition of this classic work on documentary films and filmmaking surveys the history of the genre from 1895 to the present day. With the myriad social upheavals over the past decade, documentaries have enjoyed an international renaissance; here Barnouw considers the medium in the light of an entirely new political and social climate. He examines as well the latest filmmaking technology, and the effects that video cassettes and cable television are having on the production of documentaries. And like the previous editions, Documentary is filled with photographs, many of them rare, collected during the author's travels around the world. Covering the full course of the documentary from Louis Lumiere's first effort to recent landmark productions such as Shoah, this book makes the growing importance of a unique blend of art and reality accessible and understandable to all film lovers.

New to this Edition

  • Brought up to date to the 1990's


  • Contains numerous photographs, many rare
  • Covers the full course of the documentary from Louis Lumiere's first effort to recent landmark productions such as Shoah

About the Author(s)

Erik Barnouw, now retired, was Chief of the Library of Congress's Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division, and long headed Columbia University's film division. His books include the prize-winning three-volume History of Broadcasting in the United States, Tube of Plenty, The Sponsor, and The Magician and the Cinema.


"This is the best historical overview of that major genre termed 'Documentary' or 'Non-fiction." --Edward S. Small, Phd., University of Kansas

"Nothing compares, still." --Amy Villarejo, Cornell University

"A reasonably priced introduction to a major area of film making which is all too often left in the shadow of drama. It is both thorough and readable." --Fred Caffney, South Kent College

"First rate history--well written, with a coherent and constant focus on the power of the documentary film." --Tom Mullin, Eastern Washington University

"The best in its field. I have used the first edition for almost twenty years to great effect. Barnouw is a masterful text writer." --Robert J. Allen, Seton Hall University

"This is the basic book for anybody who wants to be a documentary filmmaker. Very good!" --Aleksander Mandis, New York University

"A concise, accurate and indispensable book for any lover of documentary film. An indispensable reference and a worthy text for any course on the subject." --Lynne Jackson, St. Francis College

"The best general history of documentary available. Concise, yet wide ranging and erudite. A valuable classroom text." --Michael Griffin, University of Minnesota

Praise for Previous Editions:

"A helpful antidote to the spirit....It presents sign posts to where documentary could be and where it may emerge. Barnouw's style has a clarity and precision that make his books delights to read." --Film Quarterly

"The whole panorama has been richly researched and compactly organized into easy prose by Barnouw, writing at the peak of his competence." --Variety

"Erik Barnouw puts film history in the mainstream of human history as few others have done before. He reminds us of the powers of film to instruct, exhilarate, excite and deceive, and shows how these powers have been used in our time." --Daniel J. Boorstin

"Provides students with a foundation of knowledge from which they can learn, explore, and create." --Ronald A. Hoodak, Elmira College

"Indispensable text. I have used Barnouw's book since 1975, and I'm grateful for each updated edition." --Bill Huie, Texas A&M University, Corpus Cristi

"Well-written and wonderfully researched. Clear and concise!....I'm very excited using it." --Robert J. de Maria, Washington and Lee University

"Superior text. [I've] used it for years and will continue to do so." --Professor E. Scott Bryce, St. Cloud State University

"This knowledgeable chronicle and advocacy of the documentary is marked with the poetry of Barnouw's own appreciation of the medium." --William Judson, University of Pittsburgh

Table of Contents

    1. Glimpse of Wonders
    2. Images at Work
    3. Sound and Fury
    4. Clouded Lens
    5. Sharp Focus
    6. Movement