The first part of this chapter presents a roughly chronological overview of the creative ecosystem within which the films discussed in the book emerged and continue to circulate. It begins with defining developments in French documentary production in the late 1980s and early 1990s and ends with debates about public funding for documentary in 2015-16. The second part of the chapter outlines some esthetic assumptions about documentary form and quality that circulate within this ecosystem. It devotes particular attention to the existence in the French media landscape of a prestige genre of documentary, the documentaire de création, and to a definition of this term as it is currently used in France. It is the survival of this kind of documentary, recognized both for its cultural importance and economic fragility, that is of particular concern in contemporary debates about the future of the production landscape in France. Most of the films discussed in later chapters belong to this loose category. The chapter connects the assumptions about documentary form and audiences that underpin it, to the experiential tendencies in the films discussed in later chapters.
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