Taken from the site of IDF (Institute of Documentary Film)
commissioning editor from YLE in Finland says:
…something which on one level is very private to the individual. Something that touches my life, but which also has something very universal – universal. A great film is when the private goes through the heavy block of politics/ economics/ media and reaches the universal, is in dialogue with it. Every action a person takes reflects his/her values. There are things which are common to all of us in the world: basic values (like justice), basic emotions (like fear and joy) and experiences (like pain or falling in love) and a good documentary has this universal nature that makes it so dear to so many. Don’t try to make international films. Make films which are more near to you. The most local films are sometimes the most international, because they are universal.
In a good documentary the director and his camera see things, go deeper than just showing things or events in front of the camera. For several reasons I have really started to miss camerawork where the camera really sees. An example: very often now a director makes a documentary following the story of the protagonist in such a way, that the narrative story (will he survive the sickness? will he divorce? etc…) means that it is not so important how the whole film has been shot at all.
A good documentary needs a story, but the story can be something more than just a flat “story”, it can be associative, emotional, fact-based, philosophical. Life is richer than Hollywood describes.
And finally a good documentary will live in time: it has a timeless character. A good documentary is something that you will look at after 10 years and after 50 years its value is still higher.
The film goes deeper and deeper. There must be a moral and philosophical element too.