Non-fiction films

I apologize up front that this is a RANT.

Documentaries

I catalogue the non-fiction DVDs for my library.  As a result I come across a lot of copy.

What I see all too often is the use of the following two genre headings in the same record !

655  7 $aNon-fiction films.$2lcsh

655  7 $aFeature films.$2lcsh

These are direct opposites!  The non-fiction film is NOT a feature film, rather it is a non-feature.

The LC scope note for Nonfiction films reads:

term stands in opposition to fiction or fiction film and serves to group together all films which are meant to be educational or informational; used for films of a documentary nature and for films which have scientific, industrial, or pratical use; another term is factual film, which in its most restrictive sense only deals with the presentation of facts)

Our library has chosen to use other genre terms for these nonfiction films.  Some of the terms we use are:

655  7 $aDocumentary films.$2lcsh

655  7 $aInstructional videos.$2lcsh

655  7 $aEducational videos.$2lcsh

655  7  $aExercise videos.$2local

We have chosen not to use the Non-fiction films heading.

The Wikipedia definition of a feature film is as follows: a feature film is a film made for initial distribution in theaters and being the “main attraction” of the screening. I think the use of feature films for non-fiction films is confusing for the patrons. That is like saying a non-fiction book is a novel if it is over 500 pages. Just wrong!

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4 responses to “Non-fiction films

  1. Feature films
    sh2007025003
    680 __ |i This heading is used as a genre/form heading for individual full-length films with a running time of 40 minutes or more.

    The term refers to length now rather than a work’s fiction/nonfiction status. We use it with ‘Nonfiction films’ when appropriate.

    Also, not all nonfiction films are documentary films, despite the authority’s rather broad definition. For ex: Exercise and how-to videos would get a NF films heading but not a docs heading.

    • I agree with your comment about not all nonfiction films being documentary films. We handle that scenario with using Exercise videos (a local heading that our users seems to like) or Instructional videos (for how-to). I disagree with the length analogy though I know that is what the 680 tag of the LC scope note says. I think you are interpreting this too literally. It should be read in conjunction with the 670 tag. The Wikipedia definition of a feature film is as follows: a feature film is a film made for initial distribution in theaters and being the “main attraction” of the screening. I think the use of feature films for non-fiction films is confusing for the patrons. That is like saying a non-fiction book is a novel if it is over 500 pages. Just wrong!

  2. “It should be read in conjunction with the 670 tag.”

    Which one? The one that reads:

    “Features: Use for films which consist of 4,000 or more feet of 35mm. film, or 1,600 or more feet of 16 mm. film, i.e. with a running time of 40 min. or more”

    or the one that cites the Random House definition? My 1997 ed. jibes with the Wikipedia version and reads “the main motion picture in a movie program.”

    Neither of these specifies that the content is fiction or non-fiction.

    I agree that length is a ridiculous method to define “feature” status. But to me, feature films & short films seem to be set up as direct opposites in LCSH. Whereas fiction films and nonfiction films seem to be set up as a separate pair of opposites.

    LC’s Moving Image Genre Form guide lists feature examples under Adventure (Nonfiction) and Propaganda [described as fiction or non-fiction]. And this guide also lists feature as a Form term rather than a genre term. Perhaps this usage informed how Feature films is defined in LCSH?

    I’m not confident that ‘fiction films’ and ‘non-fiction films’ are useful to our patrons, but ‘non-fiction films’ does not seem to me (as presented in LCSH) to automatically exclude feature films.

  3. It’s surprisingly hard to find tangible definitions (or the difference between) documentary feature films, which are generally referred to as “nonfiction features” and feature films that are nonfiction, but dramatic. For example, everyone knows that “When We Were Kings” is a doc, but the more recent film “Ali” is a nonfiction feature as well. The word dramatic is the key I know, but technically, it seems, docus and biopics have exact same definition.

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