According to a recent study carried out by the agency “The Wit” for Scam (Société civile des auteurs multimédia), France has in recent years (2012-2014) been among the top three countries producing documentaries “with the greatest worldwide impact”.
In the face of international competition, French documentaries are managing to make their mark thanks to several very successful productions. France is distinguishing itself, particularly in areas like nature, investigative journalism and history. In the last of these fields, the works of Isabelle Clarke and Daniel Costelle, Sacrifice and Apocalypse: World War I, have met with very widespread success all over the world. The realistic film-making approach of Sacrifice, about the Normandy Landings of 6 June 1944, made it the third most successful documentary in the world: in the space of one week, it was seen in the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia – i.e. in more than 100 countries.
The success of French documentaries is partly due to the technological innovations used by directors. D. Costelle and I. Clarke, for example, colourized most of the footage they obtained from the time, providing TV viewers with a previously-unseen image of the major periods in history. Conversion to 3D is also a special tool.
The study also highlights the diversity of French documentaries. In addition to history, major societal issues like global warming and the ravages of globalization have won over a demanding international audience. Thus, over a five-year period, France has produced “three of the world’s most successful documentaries”: Home, nominated for the César for Best Documentary in 2010, and Planet Ocean – both directed by Yann-Arthus Bertrand – and Apocalypse: The Second World War by I. Clarke and D. Costelle.
Every year, 20% of the documentaries we produce succeed in reaching an international audience.