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The dilemma of the celebrity as doc filmmaker: Seeking Truth? Or vanity?

January 24th, 2012  |  Published in Opinion

POV is reporting on all the docs premiering at Sundance this week.  As usual, some of the docs receiving the greatest fanfare are ones made by celebrity-turned-doc makers.  This year these celebrities, who often appear as much or more in front of the camera as they do behind it, include the likes of Ice-T with Something for Nothing:  The Art of Rap and Rory Kenned’s, Ethal.  Blogging for POV, Edward Delaney, writes up a pretty interesting critique of this genre of docs that has gained momentum since Michael Moore, made the technique infamous with Roger and Me.  Delaney questions the motives behind such docs and if the commitment to truth, the corner stone of any great doc, isn’t often bent for other, more earthly motives:

…I find myself with that vaguely sickening feeling that celebrities make documentaries because they are burnishing self-image, protecting or enhancing their brand, or sometimes doing a salvage job. Think Al Gore. Or Exit Through Gift Shop, 2010 Sundance pick that a) may not have been factually accurate, and b) did more to build the artist Banksy’s brand than all of his previous work, but, most terribly, c) probably inspired a string of maybe-not-so-true-true-story docs…

Naturally, it’s something that needs to be assessed case by case, but I tend to agree with Delaney who finds that when the journalistic pursuit can even be questioned to have taken a back seat to the merits of on-camera celebrity something, for me anyway, is lost:

Documentary is likewise a marriage between art and something akin to the journalistic. But, and maybe it’s because of my own background in journalism, I lean toward the work of people who don’t make films about themselves, who explore a topic of consequence and who stay behind the camera.

Read Delaney’s complete article over at the POV Blog…

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