Documentary filmmakers are not legally required to reach out to the documentary's subject. However, ethical considerations may dictate that they do so. In some cases, it is not feasible or possible to reach out to the subject, particularly if the subject is a public figure or if the filmmaker is exploring a sensitive issue that would put the subject at risk.
The Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics states that journalists should "minimize harm" and "show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage." The code also states that journalists should "be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable" and "give voice to the voiceless."
These principles suggest that filmmakers should make a good faith effort to reach out to their subjects, particularly if the documentary is likely to have a significant impact on the subject's life. By giving the subject an opportunity to comment or respond, filmmakers can help ensure that their work is fair and accurate, and they can also give the subject a chance to provide context or clarify their position.
However, some filmmakers may choose not to reach out to their subjects for various reasons. For example, they may believe that their subjects are unlikely to be cooperative or that they would not provide meaningful or truthful answers. Additionally, some filmmakers may choose to protect their sources or to maintain their independence and impartiality by not reaching out to their subjects.
In conclusion, while documentary filmmakers are not legally required to reach out to their subjects, ethical considerations may dictate that they do so. Filmmakers should weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks of reaching out to their subjects and make an informed decision based on their goals for the documentary and their responsibilities to their subjects and the public.