In its most basic sense, the docudrama is a tool of information.  It is a matter of the way in which the information is presented.  In some ways, the docudrama can be presented simply as a movie.  If the events are portrayed as such, the audience’s connection to the events grows fainter.  They lose the connection.  However, the docudrama also has the ability to create a real connection with an audience and start a discussion.  In this sense, the “…docudrama occupies a special place in the political debate simply because it addresses—and sometimes intervenes in—present realities…” (Hamilton, 2007).  In the end, the film maker has a responsibility to create a connection between the audience and the events on screen, and challenge the audience to make a difference. 

            This is how the constant fade to black technique utilized in Bloody Sunday, plays a crucial role.  For the film maker, it is a way of conveying a sense of being present; of being a part of what is unfolding on the screen.  The fade to black is almost like taking a breath. The audience has an opportunity to pause and reflect on what has just been presented.  This creates that sense of connection that is essential to the docudrama’s ability to inform. 

            For Munich, the film makers take a different approach.  In this case, the characters are made out to be more real.  In Bloody Sunday, there is a tendency to have different characters represent something greater than them.  For example, Ivan Cooper can easily be viewed as a human conduit for the civil rights movement presented.  For Munich, Spielberg adopted a different tact.  From the start, the main character, Avner, is presented as being an ordinary man, one who is about to become a father. Throughout the movie, there are references to the way that Avner is separated from his family, and the effect that has on him.  This humanity is taken one step further by the characters’ insistence on reflecting on what they’ve done and coming to terms with the consequences of it.  In this sense, each character must “negotiate with their own values.”  Thus, the cause and challenge of the nation becomes the cause and challenge of the person. However, the ability of the film makers to make the greater cause so centralized to each person allows the all important connection between the audience and the events on screen to happen. 

            Munich heavily employs the use of flashbacks.  However, it takes a different approach to the way that a flashback is presented.  The event that serves as the catalyst for the events of the movie is only revealed over time.  Thus, the collective memory of the audience comes into play.  Collective memory includes “…not only those with a direct link to the past, but also the larger community” (Woodson, 2007, p. 88).  While some may only remember that the 11 Israelis were shot, others will remember the brutality that was shown to those athletes.  This becomes a focal point.  The perpetrators knew that if they were going to be successful, they would have to be dramatic (Barnett & Reynolds, 2009), and this is likely the artistic license that the film makers have pay closest attention to.  while it would be easy to use these as set pieces for the movie, but that framing would be detrimental to a full representation of the events and their consequences.            While the specifics are different between the movies, the connection between the audience members remains.  In a sense, each member of the audience brings their own recollections to the film and then all of the audience’s opinions are tied together through the eventual full reveal of what happens in Munich.  In the case of Bloody Sunday, the audience’s collective memory is called upon throughout the movie until the end.  While the flashback serves as the audience’s connection in Munich, it is the audience’s connection to the British response in Northern Ireland that brings that audience together.  In this way, both films strive to slowly bring that connection together throughout the film.     

            As part of that collective memory and tool of information, both movies have to walk a very fine line in regard to artistic license.  While it may not be too detrimental to have a character represent a movement, like in Ivan Cooper’s case, taking liberty with the way that events unfolded can defeat the purpose of the docudrama as a whole.  In Bloody Sunday’s case, the decision to include the scene at the end where the bombs are planted on the marcher is an event that does not have concrete evidence to support it.  Likewise, most of the movie, at least on the British side, is based on the testimony of a private who served with the paratroopers during the events portrayed, and represented as a radioman in the movie. 

            Munich faces a similar problem.  The movie is mostly based on the 1984 book Vengence by George Jonas.  This account has come into question during more recent investigations.  The Jerusalem Post review of the movie goes so far as to claim that this book is factually flawed and adds to the error and bias of the film makers.  The review goes on to criticize Spielberg for being “portentous and preachy” (Brown, 2006).  This is important in the collective memory aspect of the docudramas.  In the event that the movie is more designed as a retelling, like Bloody Sunday, it is more likely to be supported.  Bloody Sunday also presents the Northern Irish in a very positive light.  Spielberg is much more critical of the events.  In a way, he shows that while the motives might be righteous, the consequences must also be taken into account.  In both cases, the collective plays a part in the creation of the memory, through their contributions to the creation of the movie (Woodson, 2007).

            This is where collective memory plays its most important role.  While the docudrama has the ability to inform and spark conversation, it can also be divisive if the sensibilities towards its content are still very strong and very heated.  Everyone’s own opinions meet in the representation of the events and that is where criticism and disenfranchisement threaten to stop the docudrama from succeeding.    

            This is also where the presentation of the events plays such a pivotal role.  In bringing the telling of the events portrayed in these movies to new audiences, the film makers must choose their message very carefully.  If the film designed around informing, it is important to try to stay that much more accurate and allow a good luck at both sides.  In both Munich and Bloody Sunday, the ultimate message is the frustration with trying to be peaceful to end the disputes between the groups presented.  However, both films also show how a violent response to those peaceful efforts can only lead to more violence.  In Bloody Sunday, the events only strengthened the forces of the IRA.  In Munich, the people who were killed were simply replaced by more vicious representatives who sought vengeance upon those who killed their brothers, much like the Israelis in response to the killing of their brothers in Munich.  Thus, there is a sense of greater publicity for the extremist groups that are presented.  It also instills a sense of fear, but in this case it is a responsible one.  For Munich, the film makers make an argument that if one side can end the violence, perhaps the cycle can be broken.  Likewise, if the British were willing to reach out and talk, there would be no need for marches, and thus things like Bloody Sunday would never occur.  This is part of the education the audience gains from watching the docudrama.  They learn not only what happened, but they are tasked with finding a responsible way to prevent the events form unfolding again.

            In the end, a docudrama’s role as a tool of informing the masses must be used carefully to insure the audience understands its relevance and so that the message of working to change the future can be successfully impressed.  If the docudrama is to be successful, it must reach out to the collective memory of the audience, but also be willing to challenge it to force the audience to confront a perspective they may not have considered.  It is the effectiveness of this presentation that determines if the docudrama will be able to succeed in informing and affecting change.


Barnett, B., & Reynolds, A. (2009). Terrorism and the press: an uneasy relationship. New York: Peter Lang.

Brown, H. (2006, January 19).  Munich: Pretentious and preachy.  The Jerusalem Post.     Retrieved from         Article.aspx?id=10659

Hamilton, T. J. (2007).  Terrorism, Government and Post-9/11 Docudrama.  University of            Calgary, Calgary, Canada.

Turan, K. (2005, December 23).  Munich.  The Los Angeles Times.  Retrieved from   ,0,4815169.story

Woodson, M. E. (2007).  Filming the Past for a Better Future:History, Memory, and Irish Cinema, 1988-2007.  University of Kansas, Topeka, Ks.