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December 2008, Week 4


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David Tetzlaff <[log in to unmask]>
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 24 Dec 2008 19:15:08 -0500
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I'd suggest the most interesting trend in the last decade is that  
documentaries by people who are NOT well-established have received  
theatrical distribution, critical notice, and perhaps even some  
measure of financial success. I'd have to say that Moore set the  
table for all of this starting with Roger and Me, and there's kind of  
a muck-raking connection between Moore and Super-Size Me, which is  
one of the more notable examples (in 'success' terms, I'm not sure  
it's that great a film). But then there are more apolitical real-life  
dramas like Murderball, and even personal films like Tarnation. I'm  
not trying to suggest that the commercial marketplace and mainstream  
distribution machinery has suddenly opened it's arms wide to the  
broad spectrum of documentary, but certainly many sorts of films and  
filmmakers that would not have found their ways into theaters 25  
years ago are now showing up on the big screen (or maybe, since these  
things often play in the smallest house in the multiplex, we should  
say 'kinds-big-screen'). I don't have any explanation for this  
phenomenon, either in terms of audience tastes or the political  
economy of the biz... I would guess the corporatization of 'art  
house' films and also the rise of reality TV have something to do  
with it, but that's just speculation. I also have a question: what  
standards get applied at the gate? Why do some indie docs get picked  
up for presentation to a wider audience while others (perhaps equally  
as worthy in aesthetic or social worth) get left behind? Whatever the  
answer, I think it goes beyond the reputations of the Herzogs,  
Morrises, Moores etc. There are too many new faces (even if they are  
Morgan Spurlock) showing up...

> Among the artists I've seen as
> exemplifying the range of expression are Herzog, Morris, Kopple,  
> Guzman,
> and of course Moore. (I think the fact that these are all well- 
> established
> has a lot to do with why they were so well-positioned in the  
> theatrical
> market in the last decade.)

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