monthly newsletter of NISI MASA
Mockumentary Top 10 I'm still here Zelig spotlight:
from C'est arrivé près de chez vous (1992)
agenda 5 JANUARY
Polyglot submissions deadline
Young Pictures from Malmö application deadline
editorial Mockumentary is probably the strangest object coming out of the varied and crazy world of cinema. In the last decade it suddenly appeared in many guises: films, tv series, documentaries. The essence of the mockumentary has taken two different directions. The first one – which was the “spirit” of the first mockumetaries of the past - is the joke. These movies use the typical code of documentaries to make fun about (and often using) the seriousness of the documentary style. The key in this case is the representation of a kind of reality, showing something that - even if it’s clearly absurd from the beginning - pretends to be real using the documentary style to present a fact. In this case the (auto-) ironic aspect is the main result (as in many Monty Python sketches, Woody Allen’s Zelig etc). The spectator accepts the joke because it can be easily recognised – this is the core of the movie. The other direction is more interesting and new – to use the documentary style in order to increase the “sense of real” in the spectators head, bringing one to feel more empathy with what he is watching (think of REC, Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield and also TV-series, like The Office). The aim here is different. The use of a documentary style adds more effect and power to the film, giving more of a “real” point-of-view in order to increase the impact on the spectator. The core is to tell something which is not real, but
pretends to be real without being clearly absurd. There is a “contamination” with something which is not typical for a documentary, but it stands aside from fiction. In these cases, the realistic documentary style is not adopted to ridicule the genre. Its tools are being used in a fictional way in order to avoid special effects, because these are less and less necessary for the audience to suspend its disbelief. Now there is a way to create stories where poor visuals (previously considered a weak aspect in all cinematographic genres) becomes something that give strength to a film. You just need a camera, and a story to justify its “fictional” use. It seems that we are needing a new set of codes to believe in the stories told in cinema, as we used the traditional “fictional” ones too much in the past.
by Simone Fenoil
Mas y Mas is a monthly newsletter published by the association NISI MASA. EDITORIAL STAFF Coordination Simone Feniol Jass Seljamaa Design Maartje Alders
Contributors to this issue: Severine Beaudot, Igor Bezinović, Simone Fenoil, Mara Klein, Ilkin Mehrabov, Marta Musso, Joana Pinto Correira, Eftihia Stefanidi
NISI MASA (European Office) 99 Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis 75010, Paris, France Tel/Fax: +33 (0)9 60 39 63 38 + 33 (0)6 32 61 70 26 Email email@example.com Website www.nisimasa.com
WE LOVE MOCKUMENTARIES
hey exist for a long time now, but are still unknown to a great number of people. If this is your case – or, on the opposite side, you’re a true fan – this article’s for you. A mockumentary is a “mock documentary”, a parody made out of the nature of documentary. If you think you haven’t had the chance to come across one, think again. Remember The Blair Witch Project or Borat? They are some of the most commercial ones, but it serves to locate you. Actually the term only appeared in pop culture after Rob Reiner’s groundbreaking comedy on a fictional rock band called This is Spinal Tap in 1984, but years before some directors were already experiencing it, like the one who showed the detailed harvesting of spaghetti from inventory spaghetti trees, or another showing a miraculous process of dry-cleaning, in which you could enter a tank fully dressed and come out on the other side, clean as new. Mockumentaries are fun, but they can also be – and frequently are - used for talking serious business in an ironic way. Take Noviembre by Achero Mañas, which is on a group of provocative artists: the more one maintains or exaggerates the structure of true documentary, the better the results in making it credible. Another good example is Man bites Dog, by Rémy Belvaux. Benoit, the main character, is a charming and charismatic young man who maintains a loving relationship with his family, plays the piano and discusses at length whatever comes to mind, be it architecture, pigeons or classical music. But he also happens to be a sadistic serial killer who goes on murderous rampages for money and, mainly, his own enjoyment.
I’m Still Here:
Bob Roberts by Tim Robbins follows a political candidate running for the U.S. Senate, who is a musician singing conservative ideas about rebellion that in the end reveals to be a corrupted fake. It gives us a privileged guided tour through the paths of shady deals, hypocrisy and deceit of U.S. politics. Interestingly enough, there’s another great one on this matter showing in Kars. Punishment Park (1970) pseudodocuments a news coverage crew on soldiers chasing a group of hippies, draft dodgers and anti-system youngsters through a desert death-game. The rebels can assumedly escape by reaching an American flag set miles away from their starting point. This will supposedly set them free from their beliefs. The growing hostility of the soldiers only ends up revealing the sad nature of hatred-based mentalities.
We know documentaries are too always a construction over reality, but mockumentaries scream that straight in your face. They work as a powerful mirror to make us reflect on some of nowadays absurd realities, simply by subtly showing them to us in a very smart – and assumed - satirical way. by Joana Pinto Correira
The Next Generation of the Mockumentary Genre
hen Joaquin Phoenix appeared in a heavy bearded, decadent stage on David Letterman’s Late Show a year ago, ‘acting’ unusually quiet whilst provocatively chewing gum, we all suspected something might not be right. Reaffirming the rumours about his exit from acting in exchange for a fulfilling career in rap music also left us to wonder whether April’s fools’ has arrived early. Then a year later Casey Affleck announces that he has been incessantly documenting his brother-in-law’s decay from a Hollywood A-Lister turning into a spotlight-phobic creature who likes Sex, Drugs & Puff Diddy. I’m Still Here premiered as a straight documentary at the Venice Film Festival, resulting in most of the critics utterly falling for the new JP (Joaquin’s initials as a rapper!), only to find out soon - and to their bewilderment - that this was one big hoax. Possibly the best pre-publicity stunt ever made for a film, Phoenix would have made Stanislavksy really proud as he acutely exercised “method-acting” for quite some time. The plausibility of I’m Still Here wins you over and is masterly executed not only because Phoenix is a great actor but also because Affleck is an even greater manipulator, his direc tion giving you exactly what you want from celebrity peeping, and so much more. Some were clearly disgruntled by the fact that so much energy was spent on the making of this mockumentary. On the one hand it could be a realistic depiction of how Hollywood manifests itself and how it exploits its actors; on the other hand though, isn’t the film using this same system for its own attention? And aren’t its creators fed from that same industry? Regardless the ideological discourse, one lesson to be learned by this experiment is that the media are able to reproduce the tiniest bit of nonsense (‘actor retires at 34!’), and we can effortlessly take it all in. A film of multiple readings, I’m Still Here ends up being not only a sharp satire of the reality show model, but also an overwhelmingly impressive visual portrait, in which stardom is just the top coat of a finely artistic work. by Eftihia Stefanidi
The 10 mockumentaries you must see before you die (according to Marta Musso and Franti)
I am still here (C. Affleck, 2010) At his direction debut, actor Casey Affleck has a unique access to the life of superstar and best friend Joaquin Phoenix, who decided to leave behind his acting career at its pick in order to become a hip hop star. Nope, none of us has seen it already. But the fake career suicide of Joaquin Phoenix, recorded live along with his physical and mental breakdown, reduced America in tears and even fooled David Letterman.
Best in show (C. Guest, 2000)
An astonishing backstage of a prestigious dog competition in Philadelphia. By telling the story of five fake couples who are just like their owners, Christopher Guest marked the final end of laugh tracks in comedies and cleared the way for Borat.
C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America (K. Wilmott, 2006) You know those boring, nationalistic History Channel documentaries on how a Country unified? Well imagine how they would be, if the South Confederacy had won the American Civil War…
F for Fake (O.Welles, 1974) A journey inside the world of art fakes, and the last complete movie by Orwell. Along with a roundup of painting masters playing themselves, the film is considered to have invented the MTV style of editing.
Cane Toads: an unnatural history
(M. Lewis, 1988)
Cane toads were introduced to Australia in order to control sugar cane pest. But without natural enemies, they multiplied to the point of destroying the Australian ecosystem.
Although historically accurate, this halfdocumentary halfmockumentary is very humorous, and became such a cult to deserve a sequel: “Cane toads: the conquest”, presented at Sundance Festival this year.
Simply the most famous mockumentary of all times, and Peter Jackson’s unquestionable masterpiece
A day without a Mexican
One day California awakes, and all the Mexicans are gone. Back to their planet? A sci-fi hypothesis to show a very simple truth: without immigrants, societies are doomed.
Exit through the gift shop (Banksy, 2010)
Thierry Guetta, an eccentric Frenchman living in Los Angeles, is obsessed by street art and cameras. After years of shooting all over the world, he finally gets the chance to film his hero, Banksy. But the result is so bad that Banksy takes over the camera and points it at Guetta… apart from the footage, the reflection on contemporary art, the music, the editing, everything else, the greatest thing of this film is that it is impossible to understand what it’s fake and what not.
This is spinal tap (R. Reiner, 1984)
A tell-all rockumentary about heavy metal band This is spinal tap. You would never guess they actually don’t exist… It was this movie, and Rob Reiner, that credited the term “mockumentary” in the dictionary of cinema. In the US, it is such a cult that it was elected for preservation by the National Film Registry.
Forgotten silver (P. Jackson, 1995). Little did you know, New Zealanders invented pretty much everything. The proof relies in the footage of Colin McKenzie, forgotten genius of direction...
The war of the worlds (Orson Welles, 1938)
Ok, it is not a movie, but a radio (fake) bulletin. Yet, it accomplished the most important mission mockumentaries should pursue: making viewers believe aliens are about to attack, and showing how stupid people can be in front of the media…
What makes a mockumentary funny?
and witnesses with visible microphones in shot. Zelig is a critique of conformity, sensationalism and spectacle, but what makes it intelligent isn’t its content, but rather the inseparable relation of its content and its form.
e do not call parodies of thrillers mockillers, nor do we call parodies of horror films mockorrors or parodies of the comedy genre mockomedies. However, for the specific film genre which mocks documentaries we use a witty name, mockumentary, even though it is not in any significant way different from other postmodernist genres which make their point by referring to the medium of film itself.
We soon realize that the protagonist, the "human chameleon" Zelig, cannot be a historical character because of his – to put it mildly – surreal life: he defies gravity, has his spine turned upside-down and changes his race and weight when close to people who are, for example, black and overweight. Moreover, he looks exactly like Woody Allen, which makes the film particularly funny for Allen’s fans. From this rises the main question, which is: would this film be as funny to a viewer who had never seen a documentary in his life, or to a viewer not familiar with Allen’s poetics? It wouldn’t. The basis of "getting" any referential film is a familiarity with the reference, so if we showed Zelig to a person who wasn’t at all familiar with the distinction between fictional and non-fictional filmmaking, he would find it puzzling. Simply put: the more you’re into films, the more you’ll enjoy Zelig, the mockumentary genre, and parodies in general.
The very essence of every parody lies in taking a widely established and renowned fact and putting it in a completely different context. When you are a child, they teach you that making fun of other peoples’ work is not a polite thing to do. Once you’ve seen a couple of film parodies, you realize that mockery is actually the basic premise for this genre to work. What makes mockumentaries especially intriguing is the fact that they deal with the documentary film, which we generally connect with serious topics presented in a formal tone, using a clichéd style. Whether the viewer is familiar with the documentary approach in TV reports or with the classical works of documentary film history, he is able to distinguish fictional from non-fictional style right away. As with every other film genre, mockumentary too has its pivotal works. One of these is surely Woody Allen’s Zelig, and not only because it was made by Woody Allen. With this example we can analyze what makes a good mockumentary funny. Allen is fully aware of the rules of non-fictional filmmaking, so he remains faithful to this form while completely changing the corresponding content. He sets his story in the 1920-30s and hence uses methods most typical for early nonsilent era newsreels: black and white photography, a concerned and agitated male voiceover, actual archive footage, panning over photographs, explanatory titles and opening and closing titles which indicate that the film is supposed to be non-fictional. Allen also uses contemporary talking heads of real experts
by Igor Bezinović
A Mockumentary Festival in Italy All movie genres have their own festivals – this is constant law in the cinema-sphere. But the mockumentary-genre does not have so much representation. Probably the oldest festival is in Quebec; Festival du DocuMenteur de l'Abitibi-Témiscamingue , which has recently reached its 8th edition. But what about Europe? It seems that the only festival in the whole of Europe is the Piemonte Documenteur Festival: a little interesting festival set in the town of Ostana, in the Piedmont Region, North Italy. The festival screens the most interesting mockumentaries of the last years and launched a contest open to every Italian “aged between 18 and 100 years old”. Participants will be hosted by the different towns involved in the project: their duty will be to write, shoot and edit a mini-mockumentary set in the valley of Piedmont in a tight timeframe of 76 hours. “In 2010 we had the first edition,” said Carlotta Givo, Director of the Festival, “but obviously the aim is to increase participation and involvement in each level. For this reason we also have a partnership with the Festival du Documentuer, in order to develop new strategies and bring more attention to this interesting genre together.” The festival runs in the summer period (august). For more information: www.cinelabio.eu. by Simone Fenoil
Que Est Veritas? The mockumentaries and the "truth"
istory and the world of mockumentaries have a very big span and quite a set of effects, however one of the most strange examples probably was seen in Turkey in mid-90s. Named Ĺžok (Shock in Turkish), it was a television show, preparing mockumantaries in form of TV news, and some of these programs had really unexpected effects, as for example after one of the program's news that the late Anna Nicole Smith was "working" at Edirne bordello at some weekends just for fun, there was an enormous flow of men to Edirne, a Turkish city on Bulgarian border, and later the major of the city even had to make an official statement that the news were not correct. Another long effecting program Ĺžok prepared was about a toilet monster, pinkish creature living in the sewers which attacked people from time to time. Especially elder people, used to believe that everything they saw on TV is "true" and unaware of the ironic nature of the program panicked quite a lot, so that even some devices as protection measure against this monster started to be seen at some local bazaars.
Presented by Korcan Karar, who later on became quite successful news anchorman, Ĺžok marks one of milestones of Turkish TV history, as later due to changes in legislation of ethical conduct of TV news it became nearly impossible to make such programs, but it continues to live in the memories of that generation combining with the practices of the new era as now even the Facebook group for the program fans exists. by Ilkin Mehrabov
Don't forget there is a full page available each month for all Nisimasians to promote screenings you organise in your countries. Send all relevant information (leaving enough time for the editorial team to not break out in cold sweat) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
news Polyglot deadline extended!
duction meeting East European Forum that gives documentary filmmakers a chance to pitch their project and secure funding from West European and North American broadcasters.
Deadline 15th of January
FEST Training Ground registration now open! FEST Training Ground is an educational
event where new and upcoming film-
makers and filmstudents from all over the
world gather in one week, to attend a deluxe training from workshops to master classes, lectured by some of the industry’s top experts with highly acknowledged achievements. More info:
We have decided to give you 3 more weeks to submit your short videos on multilingualism to win a place abroad CineBoat – the itinerant filmmaking
Young Pictures of Malmö CALL FOR APPLICANTS
workshop in the beautiful archipelago of Turku, Finland! The new deadline is 5th of January www.polyglot-turku.eu
Ex Oriente Film CALL FOR APPLICANTS
DokWeb calls to submit your proposal for Ex Oriente Film - a year-long international workshop that supports the development and funding of creative documentary films from Central and Eastern Europe. At three workshops (the 4th session focused on rough cuts is for selected projects only) that take place in the course of one year, directors and producers develop their projects and funding strategies and benefit from the assistance and valuable advice provided by established European producers, directors, AV experts and commissioning editors. The Ex Oriente Film training programme is completed with the co-pro-
Nisi Masa Sweden is organising a five day film workshop on the theme “Youth
Go Short Student Campus CALL FOR ENTRIES
film” during BUFF - the International Children and Young People's Film
From Tuesday March 15, 2011 to Sunday
Festival in Malmö. The concept of the
March 20, 2011 Breaking Ground and the Go
workshop is to invite ten filmmakers
Short International Film Festival will organ-
from different countries as well as five
ise the third edition of the Go Short Student
filmmakers from Malmö, who together
Campus. This annual event offers European
form five teams. These teams will make
film students six days of the most interest-
one short film each during five days in
ing lectures, meetings with professionals,
Malmö. We are looking for five direc-
the most informative workshops, wonderful
tors who apply with a short film idea
short films and unforgettable parties in the
aimed at a target audience between 13
city of Nijmegen, the Netherlands. The em-
& 15 years old. We are also looking for
phasis of this year’s campus is on ultra short
five DOPs and five editors.
films. Accompanied by renowned film professionals, student film makers from across
Europe will work together on an ultra short
film, which will be premiered at the closing night of the festival. More info: http://breakingground.eu/campus2011
Severine Beaudot, living between France and Germany, participated as a videoblogger in the first complete online edition of Nisimazine, held during the last International Documentary Festival Amsterdam. Here her thoughts on that:
"Death is nothing to us...
estivals frustrate me. The wonderful last IDFA, the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam, was not an exception. I love festivals, they nearly drive me mad. I hardly can stand that a festival has an end. When all the effervescence is over, I fall in a slight depression, a mix of egocentric melancholia, feelings of no use and high phases of procrastination... Without any conditions I have the eager to go to the next festival again. At the same time, I am afraid that it wont happen. Surviving a festival is like being released of a drug rehab. Or like I imagine it... Maybe attending festivals functions like a metaphor of life. Dealing with little endings every day, little deaths of shared moments, when you know that things happen just one time in a life, and you are alone to deal with it. You watch this movie, in this mood, with your own personal story, at this exact time. Or you have this interview, or this person you meet. And suddenly, that is over. By festivals, I never manage to make all the great things I plan. I get upset because I am not able to take advantage of all the offered opportunities. Not managing to sneak into the Pitching Forum without permission. Not being able to watch these three great films a day I absolutely wanted to. And to shoot two interviews and to write a deep researched 'In Focus' article the same day. 'All we ever wanted', maybe we just want too much, at festivals and in the real life... Nevertheless, there is no time for complaining, let us have a glimpse of the IDFA this year! I want you to see what happens in the head of a journalist attending the IDFA. May I introduce you into my IDFA memories? Welcome into my brain, or 14 sentences picked out of 10 days of documentary festival experiment... 1. 2.
'Which film should I watch?' - is the most asked question. People I could have been and Maybe Am, awarded film of Borris Gerrets – the better philosophical statement I have ever heard, isn't it? 'Be stubborn, don't make any compromises.' - One lesson to be a good
documentary filmmaker by Nikolaus Geyrahlter, Our daily Bread. About the film All we ever wanted... Please, Sarah Domogala, stop the talking heads! 'Where is my bike?'- Gilles, Nisimazine Videojournalist, after one beer. 'Try to avoid procrastination' - Severine, Nisimazine Videojournalist, after one beer. (And trying to remember Boris Mitic, Director of Good bye, How are you?.) 'Freakonimics' = How to make more money of an already successful book? 'As a journalist, you have to know what you want to get! What is interesting? What is already known? What do you want to learn?' Eva Sancho and Joost Broeren, tutors of the IDFA workshops, trying to push us up. 'You have to have a strong idea, a strong story, and strong protagonists. Come on, come on!!!' Atanas Gorgiev, Director of Cash and Marry. Heuuu, sorry! My brain is mixing everything, was it not at the IDFA? 'You have to know your subject, the facts, the culture. You have to talk about the film, not about the topic.' One Commissioning Editor at the Pitching Session of the IDFAcademy. 'I am feeling I am wasting my time and I will get drunk. Because I am sick of being lonely and depressed all the time.' A videoblogger, a young girl totally lost in her life, from the documentary Because we are visual. 'I am OK for an interview, but not to be filmed'' The directors of Because we are visual. Hum. Because you are not visual, or what? 'We are at the end of the world'. Jouvens, a 12 years old Haitian child, living under a tent in Camp Pichinat, Haiti. 'If politics were to come back, it could only be from its savage and disreputable fringe. Then a muffled rumour shall arise whence that roar is heard: we are scum ! We are barbarians'. From the film The Barbarians of Jean Gabriel Perriot.
OK, this IDFA “pot pourri” was a little bit messy, but... All brains are messy, aren't they?
Pictures by MARA KLEIN
You can read all coverage from IDFA on the website www.nisimazine.eu
Newsletter of NISI MASA - European network of young cinema