By Christian Toto
The Washington Times
8:00 p.m., Monday, January 10, 2011
The Best Documentary Oscar to be handed out next month could go to a film made by a director who won’t reveal his name and that even admiring movie critics concede could be a bunch of hooey.
Welcome to the state of documentary films circa 2011, as makers push the form in ways that some see as destructive. From “Exit Through the Gift Shop” and “Catfish” to “I’m Still Here,” more documentary films are blurring the line between fiction and nonfiction and being charged with deliberately playing loose with the facts.
Nina Gilden Seavey, an Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker and director of the Documentary Center at George Washington University, said talk of “Gift Shop” winning a documentary-feature Oscar — it’s on the shortlist of 15 contenders for the final five nominations — is “blasphemous.”
“When you think of what it takes for a filmmaker to make a film … the time, the care, the effort to try to get to the heart of a story in a truthful way,” Ms. Gilden Seavey said. “Then, to have the critics and public be seduced by all appearances by a falsehood, by a Potemkin Village, that to my mind is a disservice to the form.”
She acknowledges documentary filmmakers aren’t journalists, and their films shouldn’t be reduced to a dull point-counterpoint format. But the current film trends alarm her all the same.
“If you start to question the truth, it all becomes a presumed fiction. And that is a nail in the coffin of the form,” she said.