“Indie” is one of the haziest terms in the film industry; in the 70’s and 80’s, you were either in or outside of the studio system. Now, the boundaries have blurred, with studios trying to get in on the independent action. Indie filmmaking is indeed a high-risk venture, as with anything that requires little money up front and the potential for a huge payoff. These are the directors, from Spike Lee to Terrence Malick, who have made it work.
After watching the trailer above, you may well have already characterized BAG IT as another activist documentary that does that Micheal Moore thing of setting an “everyman” out on a journey of exploration, learning and that final “ah ha” moment. And to some degree, you’d be right. Jeb Berrier (the face of the film) describes himself as an “average American,” one who doesn’t give a lot of thought to the impact of his consumption choices. You may think “Okay, I know where this is going,” and again, you’d be half right.
While director Suzan Beraza does follow in Berrier’s footsteps much like a Moore or a Morgan Spurlock follow in their own, she allows room for the journey to take whatever twists and turns come up…
Audiences have become obsessed with filmed tellings of the truth, even if they’re not always all that truthful, but there are some familiar traps documentaries fall into that remove luster from the genre and threaten to make them more like schlockumentaries.
To avoid these pitfalls in the future, I propose the following doc-ing guidelines:
CRUDE (Legal Defense Fundraiser) Tues, June 22 @ 8 pm IFC CENTER Q&A w/ director Joe Berlinger, attorney Maura Wogan, Morgan Spurlock, Michael Winship (WGA East) Tickets are $16 (all proceeds go to Berlinger’s legal defense fund) Tickets now on sale | More info To support Berlinger’s legal defense fund and shine additional light on…
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.
Populist director Michael Moore takes a stab at the fat cats of Wall Street in his latest film CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY, a documentary about the financial crisis of 2007-2009 and the subsequent stimulus and bailout packages. CAPITALISM echoes similar themes from a 2003 Canadian documentary THE CORPORATION, a critical examination of the modern-day corporation and its behavior towards society.