[FOUNTAIN]‘Mockumentary’ provokes“Death of a President,” soon to be released in Korea, is a fictional documentary about U.S. President George W. Bush being assassinated while attending an economic forum in Chicago. The shocking premise of an assassination of the incumbent president was very controversial, yet the film was awarded the International Critics Prize at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival. “The film distorted reality to reveal a greater truth,” said the critics in Toronto. Naturally, the release of the film in the United States did not go smoothly. Two multiplex chains refused to screen the film, and CNN and other network television networks declined to run the ads for the movie. The film was released on a small scale for a short period of time.
Directed by young British filmmaker Gabriel Range, “Death of a President” is a fake documentary, or a “mockumentary.” The director staged the shooting scenes and added them to actual video footage from Mr. Bush’s visit to Chicago. He also filmed shaky, grainy images of the demonstrators protesting against the Iraq war as if the scenes were filmed by video journalists. Just as in actual television documentaries on current affairs, the chief of staff, the FBI director and other figures “act out” the interviews. The movie is a mixture of real and fictional figures, archival footage and staged images, and the audience focuses on the boundary between reality and fiction throughout the film. That is why the film attracts so much attention regardless of the political standpoint.
The fake documentary began as a sort of “genre parody,” twisting the language of documentary itself. It looks like a reenactment of an actual event, but everything has been staged. The mockumentary raises a question on the authenticity of the camera. It also ridicules the myth of objectivity to trust the raw material captured by the documentary camera. Peter Jackson, the director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, caused great confusion with “Forgotten Silver,” a fake documentary satirizing the major events in film history.
The success of “The Blair Witch Project,” an independent film that turned the cyberspace world upside down in 1999, spread the fake documentary format and marketing tactic to general commercial films. This “real” horror film about three student filmmakers searching for a mythical witch gone missing grossed over 400 times the production cost, bringing instant fame to the directors and producers.
A fake documentary questions the ambiguous border between truth and lies, asking if there is such a thing as truth.
*The writer is a culture and sports desk writer
of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Yang Sung-hee