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Not my area, as such, but I hope that you'll consider Spike Lee's work (4 Little Girls, Jim Brown: All-American, When the Levees Broke, etc.).  Given that Lee has been able to produce some of these films through cable TV deals is symptomatic of the important growth of that medium for documentary distribution.  The Sundance Channel is maybe the most notable example of that trend, "docu-dramas" aside. 

Don larsson

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"When something is empty, fill it.  When something is full, empty it.  When you have an itch, scratch it."   --Dieter Dengler

Donald F. Larsson, Professor
English Department, Minnesota State University, Mankato
Mail: 230 Armstrong Hall, Minnesota State University
        Mankato, MN  56001
Office Phone: 507-389-2368
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From: Film and TV Studies Discussion List [[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of David Tetzlaff [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Wednesday, December 24, 2008 6:15 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [SCREEN-L] documentary film in the last decade

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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