Rise Of Cinema Journalism

This post uses me to make several points, but it is not about me.

It focuses the mind.

Twentieth-century media structures inherit an inertia, a technical rationality in which convention wins over artistry.

The evolving hybrid cine-video-journalism is evident. It combines:

  • The rigours of academia — deconstructing 20th & 21st-century practices
  • Reflective experiences from industry
  • A zeal of being the outsider undertaking calculated risks

The mix creates an intensely fluctuating dynamic field. In this field, 20th-century media, as a construct, starts to collapse.

Like Cobb’s dreams in Inception, what once held the media together — scarcity and thus premium — are leading to its decomposition.

David Dunkley Gyimah


In November 2014, I was near the Turkish-Syrian border working with young videojournalists.

Some videojournalists in their bid to capture a story as it’s unfolding can make choices to position themselves, to procure the best plot, to record events as if they were directing live cinema. These cine-videojournalists, like the best photojournalists, are contiguous.

They can place themselves to get the best shot, the balanced frame, the moments. They are not tainted by television and traditional media’s ageing codes. 1920s Russian cinema maker Dziga Vertov knew this.


In Cine-videojournalism or cinema journalism, factual storytelling finally returns to the primacy of cinema to tell non-fictional stories.

Coding is paramount — the lingua franca of the online world for creative experiences.

This combination, coupled with ideas contributes to a pragmatic sharing space model — collaborating to create practical solutions to various problems.

Cine-videojournalists also understand the variances of global cultures, but this form didn’t just arrive. In the 1990s, I worked on BBC Reportage — a current affairs show for young people that revolutionised journalism production.

In the 1990s, I was one of the UK’s first videojournalists at Channel One. We made up television news. Many are now award-winning filmmakers and writers e.g. Marcel Theroux, Dimitri Doganis and Stephen Leigh. I tell their story (our story) and what made it work in my thesis.

Channel 1 One Television

In cultures, we all use the same technology, but our stories are defined by cultural cognitivism — the patterns that come to us based on where we’re from and our own development.

The style is to tell stories as a specificity of vision (see Soderbergh). That vision is an expansive one that mutates beyond the walls of conventions seen in television and 20th century media. It is maximised by a visual and textual understanding of different forms and styles.

In 2005 I won an international award in the US — The Knight Batten Awards for Innovation in Journalism
In 2005 I won an international award in the US — The Knight Batten Awards for Innovation in Journalism.

8 Days was a film I made setting up the UK’s first regional videojournalism programme with the Press Association. It shows how newspaper journalists learned to become videojournalists and was produced on prosumer kit, cut on Final Cut Pro, as cinema.


Culture matters in cine-videojournalism. I schooled and grew up in Ghana — in an environment far removed from technology.

Ghana Culture

I speak its languages and recall how this sensibility was crucial to freelancing for the BBC World Service from South Africa in the 1990s.

Years later, working with a CNN executive we engineered an ambitious project — a state to state collaboration between Ghana and South Africa to tell their stories to each other.

United States Of Africa

I also met and interviewed Quincy Jones in a bar in Soweto.

Quincy Jones Interview Soweto

Cultural cognitivism within cinema journalism, for instance acknowledges Chinese wood-block prints influence over Western impressionism or that in film there is no rule of thirds, but symmetry and balance as an aesthetic.

David training journalists

This 21st-century approach to storytelling has been used to train next generation journalists at the FT.com in the UK, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon and near the Syrian border.

We Are Syria


I graduated in Chemistry and Maths — far removed from reportage, studied developing economies at the London School of Economics and journalism at Falmouth. My life’s teachers included pioneers of Cinema Verite e.g. David Maysles below and the late Robert Drew whose work I studied. And filmmakers, such as Mark Cousins, who wrote the Story of Film and broadcaster Jon Snow, whom I produced whilst working at Channel 4 News (Jon Snow speaks about David here).

I am now a senior lecturer in a new videojournalism and online design at the University of Westminster.


Reflective practice

My first job in the media was in the 1980s as a student working part-time for BBC Radio Leicester. Before working at Channel One as a videojournalist and presenting the news.

David News

I worked for the BBC e.g. Newsnight and Reportage, ABC News, Channel One, WTN and Channel 4 News, before joining various DotComs.

David Media Cards

I worked on my first mac in 1992 and bought my first powerbook in 2001. I took a flight from London to New York to buy it — amazingly it was much cheaper

David's First Mac

This perspective working across different media and different companies has given cine-videojournalism an understanding of journalism’s constructs.

It’s my belief, based on a six-year doctorate study of nearly 200 interviews that just as MTV revolutionised a new concept of filmmaking from music videos, or CBS’s newscasts in the 50s changed the landscape, that a burgeoning new generation of storytellers are set to influence change.

Frontline Club with Christiana Amanpour

There’s a quote that stands out for me in How Google Works.

How Google Works

We’re converging on the same point from different perspectives.
Cover Image Credit: David near the Syrian border working with young Syrian journalists