October 1998 – The Kent International Film Festival
screened The Buena Vista Social Club, a new
documentary film. This two screen local cinema had
people queuing round the block to buy a ticket. Once
the auditorium reached capacity people were turned
By contrast on the other screen the cinema showed
There’s Something About Mary to an audience of
Documentary was back on the big screen and was at
the start of the renaissance.
Rather than playing to the small demands of
television, filmmakers now have the big screen
in mind, as exemplified in the award winning
Touching The Void. This film uses the same
cinematic devises as mainstream Hollywood
films (e.g. helicopter action shots)
Michael Moore’s work has significantly raised the
profile of documentary both as a cinematic and
His controversial films overtly challenge the
mainstream and are overtly political and critical of
the role of big businesses of America.
Moore’s films use a mixture of styles. They have a
modern pace, structure and energy that set them
apart from their predecessors and have spawned a
revitalised contemporary documentary movement.
Other filmmakers which fall into this style are Morgan
Spurlock and Louis Theroux.
Michael Moore’s Slacker Uprising (2008) is one of
the first documentary feature films to be released
as a completely free legal on-line download.
Moore made it available for three weeks and it
broke all download records in its first twenty-four
At the start of the twenty first century documentary
is fashionable and accessible and even those of
limited means are able to access, make and
distribute documentaries themselves.
One of the key features in the contemporary documentary film
movement is Morgan Spurlock, whose first documentary feature
Super Size Me (2004) was an immediate worldwide success.
Its effects were wide reaching, being attributed to the worldwide
fall in fast food profits for McDonalds and forcing the company to
end its Super-size promotion.
Spurlock has since built a genre out of the thirty days
concept, through a series of television documentaries, where
subjects agree to having a camera following them for thirty days
(e.g. living on minimum wage.)
Super Size Me is the 17th highest grossing documentary of all
times, receiving over $11 million at the box office.
Parentage lies in the participatory mode
Contemporary focus on personal
Filmmaker as ‘star’
Under going elements of whatever they
Over emotional reactions highlighting a
sense of ‘the real’
Lack of editorial restrictions
Create a case-study on Morgan Spurlock looking
1. His life
2. His work (including box office returns)
3. Audience response
4. Critical response