This is Spinal Tap. Waiting for Guffman. A Hard Day’s Night. The second half of the 20th century saw the birth of an entirely new genre of film where fictional events were presented as truth: the mockumentary. From the very beginning it served as a self aware tongue-in-cheek device to critique modern culture, touching on everything from the music industry to foreign affairs to the supernatural.
Although this genre is most commonly associated with comedies, there are a number of more controversial dramatic incarnations that had audiences unsure if what they were seeing was fictional. A prime example of this is Peter Watkins’ 1965 film The War Game, an unnervingly realistic portrayal of a Soviet attack on Britain. BBC famously withdrew the film from airing, saying that “the effect of the film has been judged by the BBC to be too horrifying for the medium of broadcasting…”
The 2000’s have seen a resurgence of this genre, as it continues to evolve in new and innovative ways. In the 2006 film Borat, Sascha Baron Cohen put a twist on the genre, unleashing his character on real-life Americans who believed they were appearing in an actual documentary. In 2010 the Casey Affleck film I’m Still Here briefly had the world convinced that Joaquin Phoenix had gone absolutely insane, all for this satirical look at celebrity culture. What We Do in the Shadows, the 2014 comedy directed and starring Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, took a look at the day to day life of vampires.
The appeal of mockumentaries to independent filmmakers extends beyond the conceit of the genre, as they can often be made on a shoestring budget, reducing the need for extensive lighting setups, and camera rigs. With found footage horror films being a notable and very successful subgenre of this, many of these films have used their minuscule budgets to enhance the believability of their subject matter.
At the 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival, Canadian director Lawrence Côté-Collins is making her directorial debut with her mockumentary Split. Co-presented by InFocus Film School, the film follows Anick, a social worker-turned-documentary-filmmaker who moves in with a couple to document the life of a man’s social reintegration following a life lived in and out of prison. Exploring the boundaries and ethical choices of the documentary filmmaker, this compelling film raises questions about how a production can influence the livelihood and trajectory of its subjects.
05 October 2016 8:15 PM VIFF at The Cinematheque
10 October 2016 4:30 PM VIFF at The Cinematheque