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While documentary films rely on fact to present their story, not all films must be a documentary to be based on a fact or true story. Documentary films are based on a fact, but explore the ideas and values of the fact in a mostly expository manner. Feature films can also be based on a fact but tend to use the fact for entertainment value as opposed to an informative manner.
In the text Patch Adams by Tom Shadyac, the film is based on the true story of the doctor Patch Adams. Instead of following the real life story of Patch Adams and using conventional documentary codes, the film explores events in his life that are of interest and have the most entertainment value. By showing the text is a feature film through film codes and exclusion of documentary film techniques, Patch Adams is a feature film that bases its story on a fact.
The text Patch Adams follows the story of the medical students life and the highs and lows he faces. Using different film codes, the text identifies itself as a feature film while basing its story on actual facts and events.
The story of Patch Adams begins in a university campus. The University and its surroundings are first identified with establishing wide-angle shots of a brick building with leaves falling from orange autumn trees in the clear morning. The character Patch is then identified with eye-level close mid-level shots of him taking books from his locker and looking peaceful and ready to begin his day. During this time a very casual and uplifting tune can be heard in the background of the shots. While following the casual beginnings in his day, the film explores the everyday life of this character that exists in our world, but at the same time exists on screen. While the film is based on actual events and characters, the film uses codes that are familiar to feature film and therefore resists the idea that a film based on facts must be a documentary. Another feature film aspect used by Patch Adams is the process of selection.
Many events in the life of Patch Adams have a high level of entertainment value. While there are elements of entertainment value in a documentary, the main objective is to inform the audience on a certain subject or issue. The main objective of feature film on the other hand is to entertain the audience. In the text Patch Adams, the director has been selective in the events that are shown in the text to introduce a form of entertainment. Examples of this are when the audience sees the experiences faced by Patch Adams in college, the experiences with sick patients first hand and experiences such as meeting his girlfriend. All these are shown for their entertainment value. While these events all occurred, they have no real informative side to them and are therefore pure entertainment to encourage the audience to respond to the characters and events in a selected way. In documentary films, such events would not be shown, as they would either be irrelevant to the main objective of the text or information the documentary wishes to present.
The text Patch Adams follows the many aspects of the doctor’s life. From the beginning of his university years as a med student to the untimely death of his girlfriend, Patch Adams tells the story of the medical revolutionary. The text uses many feature film techniques and codes as well as selection of content to give certain aspects of his life and present certain issues. The life of Patch Adams that the film presents is based on fact and actual stories. Simply because a film is based on fact does not make it a documentary, but in the way it is constructed.
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