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Non-Fiction Filmmakers Share Their Favorite Mockumentaries

Favorite Things: Mocumentaries

Non-Fiction Filmmakers Share Their Favorite Mockumentaries

For a special April Fool’s Day Five In Focus series, a group of documentary directors choose their favorite five fake documentaries.

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Yung Chang's Five Favorite Films
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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.

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Punishment Park

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.

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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.

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Zelig

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.

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24 City

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.

Yung Chang
Yung Chang
Yung Chang

Emmy-nominated, Genie award-winning filmmaker, Yung Chang, is a Chinese-Canadian filmmaker based in Montreal. He is a film graduate from Concordia University and studied the Meisner technique at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York. Up The Yangtze, was his first feature documentary, in which the highly contested Three Gorges Dam forms a dramatic and unsettling backdrop for a moving and richly detailed narrative of a peasant family negotiating unprecedented historic changes. Up The Yangtze played at numerous festivals including Sundance and was one of the top-grossing documentary box office releases in 2008. Chang is currently developing his next feature documentaries, The Fruit Hunters, with the CFC/NFB Feature Documentary Program, and China Heavyweight, about Chinese peasant pugilists.

As one of the most highly respected young documentary filmmakers around, Chang was a perfect person to mark April Fool’s Day by picking his favorite five fake documentaries.

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