The Wall Street Journal [paid subscription required] examines the mainstream ambitions of the latest crop of documentaries.
"The Yes Men" is one of a number of documentaries coming soon to U.S. theaters that take on the corporate world with varying degrees of hostility. The others include "Super Size Me," in which filmmaker Morgan Spurlock eats a pure McDonald's diet for 30 days to see how it affects his body (badly), and "The Corporation," which accuses capitalists of being mentally ill.
Documentaries with a political message typically are limited to releases in one or two big cities and screenings at a few college campuses. But what sets apart this year's crop of documentaries is their mainstream ambitions.
One of the main challenges these distributors face is how to market the films to entertainment-oriented moviegoers who wouldn't traditionally go to see a documentary, without driving away the core audience of film buffs and left-leaning political enthusiasts. The latter group includes early supporters of the films who spread the word about them through festivals and over the Internet.
Ultimately, the marketing campaigns have to reach both audiences, which has these very anti-corporate films relying on traditional corporate strategies, from talk shows to product tie-ins, along with some less-orthodox techniques.
The cinetrix is thrilled to see what Michael Moore hath wrought in the multiplexes, but she reminds everyone that venerable PBS also makes room for documentaries between pledge drives. In fact, the cinetrix is still recovering from watching the powerful film Love & Diane, which was broadcast last Wednesday under the auspices of POV.
Do you know about this film? It follows one family through ten years. Ten years of single parenthood, crack addiction, suicide, group homes, HIV-positive infants, the family court system, therapy, and public assistance. And it is fucking breathtaking. At its heart is the relationship between mother Diane, who battled back from a crack addiction to, miraculously, reassemble her children from the far reaches of the foster care system, and her articulate, truculent, guilt-ridden daughter Love, a mother herself now at 18.
Oh, just see it. If you can. It's available directly from Women Make Movies, or you could urge your local independent video store to purchase it, or start pestering Netflix and GreenCine to add it to their inventories. After you've sniffled through it, let me know what you think.
Next up on POV: Farmingville. [POV even offers to send you an email reminder, so no excuses!]