For a special April Fool’s Day Five In Focus series, a group of documentary directors choose their favorite five fake documentaries.
David Holzman's Diary
When I first saw this movie in university, I had no idea it was a mockumentary, which is sort of embarrassing now since Diary is definitely satiric commentary about documentary filmmaking. This was the film that made me pack away cinema pretensions. It makes you think about truth in documentary and has extra resonance upon second viewing when you’ve made a so-called cinema-verité film yourself.
Peter Watkins, iconoclastic British filmmaker and recluse now living in Hamilton, Ontario, made this legendary film in 1970. Its prescient subject matter is all the more relevant today – touching on reality television, GITMO, and Homeland Security. This is a raw, uncomfortable and angry hidden gem of the mockumentary genre – a must.
F for Fake
Madcap cinematic essay – inventive, reflexive and playful – Orson Welles the genius magician works his sleight-of-hand in this exploration on the art of the fake.
Woody Allen skillfully renders a send-up of the "traditional" talking-head/archival documentary. It's so spot-on, with Ken Burns accuracy, that much of the comedy derives from the "Where's Waldo" effect of spotting Allen's dopey mug as the chameleon known as Zelig. Hilarious.
Jia Zhangke, the great Chinese filmmaker, is onto something. He documents the people surrounding an old state factory that is being rebuilt into modern luxury condos. Perhaps more hybrid filmmaking than mockumentary, this film brings to mind the works of Makhmalbaf and Kiarostami. It's the sort of filmmaking that presents the idea that fiction and documentary can be a seamless reality and that there is no distinction. By weaving between actors and non-actors, Jia seems to be playing with China's own blurred identity, one that is re-inventing itself. Also see his previous hybrid doc Useless.