Are you craving to counteract all that holiday cheer with some good old-fashioned documentary depression? Never fear, two hard-hitters are still in theatres and soon to be on-demand or in your queue. I saw them both in recent weeks and while both hold their end of the bargain to keep up the doc-is-downer reputation, one is a far more complex experience than the other. (By the way, doc had a good year – with CATFISH, EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP, I’M STILL HERE – filmmakers soon may be able to ditch the downer syndrome and engage nonfiction for what it should be – more diverse in approach, content, tone and negotiation with ‘truth.’) I’m speaking here of INSIDE JOB (Charles Ferguson) and WAITING FOR SUPERMAN (Davis Guggenheim).
President Obama with some of the children from WAITING FOR SUPERMAN After winning the Audience Award for Best Documentary at Sundance, WAITING FOR SUPERMAN went onto teach, excite and generally rile up audiences everywhere with its take on the depressing state of US public education. Directed by Davis Guggenheim, who won an Oscar in 2006…
CRUDE director Joe Berlinger.
Earlier this month, when a judge ruled that documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger was to turn over all 600-plus hours of footage he shot for his film CRUDE to the oil giant Chevron, which is seeking the footage to help the company defend itself from the litigation efforts depicted in the film, several of Berlinger’s fellow directors immediately expressed dismay at the decision and support for their colleague.
“It makes me shudder to think that all that stuff would be turned over,” documentarian Ric Burns (who produced THE CIVIL WAR (1990) with his brother Ken Burns) told the New York Times, “not because of any secrets that are revealed, but because of the killer blow to the trust a filmmaker cultivated, deeply, over a very long period of time.”
Burns contended that the ruling, if upheld, could have long-term effects. “Next time, there won’t be a CRUDE. There won’t be a film,” he said. “That’ll be good for Chevron, I guess. Because the next time you go, you’re going to have a much leerier group of informants.”
Michael Moore (of FAHRENHEIT 9/11 and BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE) agreed. “The chilling effect of this is, someone like me, if something like this is upheld, the next whistle blower at the next corporation is going to think twice about showing me some documents if that information has to be turned over to the corporation that they’re working for,” Moore told the New York Times, suggesting that Berlinger resist turning over the footage “if he can.” He added, “I think that he’ll find that he’ll have the support of hundreds of filmmakers who will back him in this.”
While Moore has occasionally been accused of exaggerating for effect, in this case, his prediction proved to be spot-on.
Until Thursday, Sundance Film Festival watchers from afar could have been forgiven for concluding that the increased emphasis on art, rather than on commerce, in the festival offerings this year may have worked all too well. Many of the films making their debuts were wowing critics, but the money people appeared to be unimpressed, or at least not impressed enough to open their wallets. Or at least opening them too often.
This afternoon’s screening of IT MIGHT GET LOUD embodied just about everything I love and hate about going to the movies. For starters, the Library Center Theater was arctic cold before the screening began—not because the heat was off, but because the air conditioning was on full blast. No, I’m not joking. I asked a…