A Stupid Opinion About Documentaries Written Poorly

8 Jul

There was a time when I thought all cinema was created equally. I thought because I wanted to be a filmmaker so much, that every film was made with this idealistic passion I just assumed came with the job. Then I started watching documentaries, and I realized passion wasn’t required for the field of nonfiction films, but massive egos were absolutely a requirement.

I believe it started with Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine. The film had very successful return for the modest budget and with DVD sales, the film became a bona fide blockbuster of small budget films. Which then caused a flood of feature-length documentaries to invade the art houses and smaller venue theaters. Films that could be produced on a shoestring budget would draw returns from all of the people claiming film was an intellectual activity. Put a “cause” documentary with any type of social agenda into a theater and people were guilted into seeing it. But cinema, no matter how French it was, was never a serious intellectual activity. That’s what was so great about it though, if you liked watching films with subtitles or laughed at a Woody Allen joke about Camus, it gave the appearance of being educated while actually being entertained. Then theatrical documentaries came along and made going to the movies homework. But the homework isn’t even homework, it’s busy work designed to separate people from their dollars by playing to their social guilt instead of their desire to be entertained. At least with Michael Moore and documentaries like Super Size Me, they were having a good time while putting their message forth. Unlike the most manipulative and despicable documentaries are those joyless lot of films that beat their drums so hard they may have relegated independent film to a life far far removed from anything that could be considered a theatrical run.

The prime example of this is these types of films are the documentaries ordered in bulk by middle school libraries. They provide no new information, string together already published information with visual images and leave any notion objectivity at the door of the editing suit. Films like The Corporation, The Inconvenient Truth, The Eleventh Hour or, really, any film about global warming, have completely sullied the good name of documentaries for me. They aren’t good documentaries and they horrible examples of cinema. They are arrogant and irresponsible made by egoist with messiah complexes. Watching these kind of documentaries is just like inviting a Jehovah’s Witness into your home for a discussion over some lemonade, with the only difference being the documentary doesn’t even pretend to listen to your opinions. These “Cause” documentaries are the most manipulative aspects about moving images stretched out into tools of propaganda.

I place part of blame for the current dystopian tent-pole, megaplex, franchise, death-rattle of cinema on the theatrical documentary boom of the early to mid-aughts. Everyone wants to show that they care, but they want to be entertained more. Just like every selfish executive in the 2000’s the immediate profits were too blinding to look at the long-term effects, so they traded some short-term gains on guilting people into caring for a future sequels to comic book movies and remakes and reboots instead of entertaining original films. Documentaries are partly responsible for handing the keys of Tinseltown over to the fanboys. In the meantime, the “intellectual” entertainment of choice has moved to the small screen, hopefully, quality original independent films will follow.

 -C. Charles

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4 Responses to “A Stupid Opinion About Documentaries Written Poorly”

  1. Carl Wells July 9, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

    “Cause” Documentaries have become a big sub genre, I will say that some of them are relevant if only because they inform people who normally wouldn’t know anything about the subject matter. But you are certainly right that they take out the fun and artistic aspects of watching a movie.

  2. tbgcl July 17, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

    You can add Hot Coffee to the list of bad documentaries. I had to turn that nonsense off.

    • ccharlesconfidential July 19, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

      Now, when it comes to documentaries I just assume that if it isn’t directed by Martin Scorsese, it’s going to be shit. Hasn’t served me wrong yet.

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