Random Factoid #450

21 10 2010

Documentaries can often arouse passion and indignation. But do they change our minds or just preach to the converted?

That’s the question that Patrick Goldstein of The Los Angeles Times‘ blog The Big Picture asks, and it’s the question Marshall of “Marshall and the Movies” will try to answer.

There has been an influx of politically-charged documentaries hitting mainstream consciousness as of recent, beginning with Davis Guggenheim’s but actually Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.”  Ever since then, we’ve seen movies that tackle touch issues like the economy (“Inside Job”), education (“Waiting for Superman”), dolphin killing (“The Cove”), and Iraq (too many to name) going outside their usual art-house audience.  These are very different kinds of documentaries from the ones that you see at school and on the history channel; they are made by filmmakers with a mission to prove that something needs to be changed and then try to spur you to action over the course of the movie.  The Internet has made it a whole lot easier to give such help, and documentaries have become a powerful tool for real change.

But, as Goldstein puts it, “Documentaries can often arouse passion and indignation. But do they change our minds or just preach to the converted?”

Here’s my take on these politically-charged documentaries.  I am willing to listen if the movie gives me the facts first and then allows me to make my own conclusion.  I don’t mind listening to a differing opinion, but as long as I get some separation, I can bear it.  If a filmmaker can’t do that, I really don’t want to spend my time watching the movie.  I want to be informed, not lectured.

F.I.L.M. of the Week (September 4, 2009)

4 09 2009

This week’s “F.I.L.M. of the Week” is “Man on Wire.”  It is truly one of a kind: a documentary that feels like a movie.  I seldom watch documentaries, but I decided to watch it a few months ago because it had won the Oscar for Best Documentary and it had received unanimous critical praise.  The filmmakers tell the story of Philippe Petit, the daring trapeze artist who walked on a wire between the World Trade Center towers in 1973.

It’s nothing like a History Channel special, which the average moviegoer seems to group documentaries alongside.  Rather than recounting the events through interviews and pictures, the filmmakers have a cast reenact the events.  They also make a clever move in crafting the movie as if it were a heist film.  The result is a breath-taking, captivating, and delightful movie (three words I thought I would never use to describe a documentary.)