More Oscar Doc Trouble


The winner of the short documentary Mighty Times: The Children’s March is being criticized for using dramatic recreations that merge seamlessly with archival footage. Frieda Lee Mock, the chairperson of the prize committee is quoted in the New York Times:

Ultimately, it’s an issue of credibility. And the question is, why wasn’t it disclosed to us, the academy members voting?”

The filmmakers claim on their website:

In order to distinguish faux doc’ from archival footage, we stripe the borders of reenactment scenes with film sprockets. The net result is honorable both artistically and historically, making very clear which footage is new and which is not.

The academy received enough complaints that it got John Else (producer of Eyes on the Prize) to examine the film. NPR has an interview with him. It seems that the copies that the academy got did not have those tell-all sprocket holes.

Re-enactments have been used by documentary filmmakers since the time of Flaherty, and in our own times, news is faked with impunity, with male prostitutes posing as journalists, so its hardly shocking that two very successful documentarians” would do the same, not to equate the truth value” of this documentary with deceptions of the Bush administration, but it does bring up some very interesting questions about certain forms (the news report, archival footage) becoming the repository of credibility . I haven’t seen this film yet, but from the film’s website it looks as if the filmmakers are much more concerned with producing a very effective and glossy piece of work, rather than having something to say about history and its representation, or the practice of faux documentaries, which has a venerable history from Zelig to This is Spinal Tap.