Sunday, August 16, 2009

District 9 and the Mockumentry

PLOT: "It's been 28 years since the aliens made first contact, but there was never any attack from the skies, nor any profound technological revelation capable of advancing our society. Instead, the aliens were treated as refugees. In order to accommodate them, the government of South Africa set up a makeshift home in District 9 as politicians and world leaders debated how to handle the situation. As the humans begin to grow wary of the unwelcome intruders, a private company called Multi-National United (MNU) is assigned the task of controlling the aliens. When MNU field operative Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is exposed to biotechnology that causes his DNA to mutate, the tensions between the aliens and the humans intensifies. Ostracized and isolated, Wikus retreats to District 9 in a desperate bid to shake his dogged pursuers" With thanks from IMDB

REVIEW: "There are a lot of secrets in District 9." Yes there are character whose name escapes me from movie. There is also a lot of awesomeness. I think this hands done has to be the best blockbuster of the summer so far. The plot is coherent, the acting is great, I can see the action take place and I'm invested in the main character. Well done Neill Blomkamp you've made my day with this finely crafted film, also big round of applause Sharlto Copley who plays Wikus Van De Merwe the main character. He had a lot on his plate and and yet hit all the right notes. It was also great to see a movie taking place in a South Africa a country we westerners don't often see in movies.

One of the more interesting things this movie does is blend documentary footage into the main narrative. This documentary comments on the events that are happening. One of the criticisms I've heard from reviewers is that there are some shots in the movie that couldn't be done by the documentary crew. The problem is these impossible shots are not supposed to be done by the documentary crew. To make it simple there are two timelines playing out in this movie, the present which is just the standard movie and the future where people are being interviewed about the events. This could be a little confusing but I think it lends a freshness to the movie that lets it stand out, and this brings me to what I want to talk about. The mockumentary. (Mockumentary = fake documentary)

Personally I love the mockumentary and i'm always keen to see the latest Christopher Guest movie as it's guranteed to be a fun time. Who is Christopher Guest? He just happens to be the writer/director of Best In Show, A Mighty Wind and Waiting for Guffman some of the funniest mockumentary's out there. Oh yeah he also wrote This Is Spinal Tap which in my mind is the best mockumentary out there.

So why make a movie like a documentary? Honestly I can't get the specific reasons as I'm not that bright, but I think it allows a sense of realism to be applied to situations that would be fantastical. A lot of Christopher Guest's stuff is about weird people with weird hobbies. Bring in the documentary elements especially if you're letting the actors ad lib and suddenly we can relate to these weird people making the humor funnier. I think it can also tap into the voyeuristic natures most of us have. Also as I said with District 9 it can lend a movie some freshness. Sure we've seen plenty of movies with aliens but how many documentaries? (Okay there was that fake fox special Alien Autopsy)

I don't think I can talk about mockumentaries without mentioning the Blair Witch Project. At one point in time there were people who believed that the movie was real. This had a lot to do with the marketing just look at the missing poster to the right. Pretty well thought out. But the movie itself was a very well put together mockumentary that played to its strengths. Made on the cheap it raked in the money and yet it was able to scare because it implie the horror with not actually having to show it. If this was just a cheap horror movie that didn't use the documentary style then we would of all forgotten about it. In fact I think it's safe to say that it would of never been released.

The mockumentary can be a very powerful tool if used for the right topic. Off the top of my head I don't think I can come up with a mockumentary that failed in my eyes though I'm sure there are some out there. I really hope that with District 9 making the impact that it has that we might get a few more mockumentaries that delve into some interesting territories.

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