Fahrenheit 9/11, Control Room and the rise of a new genre?

Guest Blog #23 – Anand C

[No Spoilers Ahead]

Fahrenheit 9/11 and Control Room (made by Jehane Noujaim) were both released within a month of one another. One starts from several parts of the world (Michigan, Texas, Iraq) and concentrates arguments from these multiple sources to mount a coherent forced attack on the Bush administration. The other starts from a dusty broadcast room (of the Qatar based Arab news agency Al-Jazeera) and paints its view of the outside world through that media lens. One spews hatred and has no pretense of an “independent” film, the other is a sincere portrayal of a very controversial topic, and deserves praise for sticking to its “independent” stand even though there is ample temptation to succumb and ride the controversy wave!

Both leave their mark, but not as staid, sober documentaries.

In an already polarized country, F 9/11 provoked like none other (maybe JFK brought forth this kind of intense reaction…). Democratic groups like MoveOn.org are organizing Fahrenheit parties to get people to carry their anger all the way to the ballot boxes! In fact, it’s probably fair to say Michael Moore is an activist who uses film as his propaganda tool, than a director who portrayed a sensitive (and controversial) issue (judging from his themes in Roger and Me, and Bowling for Columbine).

When Quentin Tarantino handed Michael Moore the first ever Cannes Pale d’Or for a ‘documentary’, he made it evident that the accolade was for the film, not its political statements. Did he see the coming of a new genre before the public did?

Wonder if we are seeing the arrival of the “opinion-entary”?

PS: Stupid comment of the month: Ray Bradbury’s (awesome writer and author of Fahrenheit 451), whining that Michael Moore did not ask him for permission to use the title!

3 thoughts on “Fahrenheit 9/11, Control Room and the rise of a new genre?

  1. The point that documentaries should be “independent” or objective as can be more clearly put is clearly an oversight of today’s media situation. No news or commentary is objective. Everything has a certain degree of bias. To expect a documentary to be devoted to all aspects of a problem is fallacious. You _cannot_ have “independent” media. Also the point with a new genre as Anand says is moot. The idea of whether F911 is a documentary has been discussed to death in various places including Slashdot. Just because F911 is an ugly mess of political intrigue doesnot eliminate it from being considered as a documentary.

  2. Hmmm…disagreement…great!

    If you read Mark Tully (No Full Stops in India), one of the lines you’ll remember is that the creator (in this case, the filmmaker) cannot forget that he is telling someone else’s story. It’s not his own story he is narrating.

    F 9/11 definitely breaks that noble intention (relatively speaking, Control Room did not!). Nothing wrong with that… but at that point, it’s not a documentary.

    True that there is no independent media (if you regularly read these blogs, there is a past post that even NEWS is not independent…). it’s just “degrees of independence” we’re talking about.

  3. I remember from one of Moore’s personal interviews at the Cannes where he categorically pointed out that he was making films too…except that they were non-fiction. We run into problems only when heeding to the need to categorize his films as documentaries. Non fiction films are not always documentaries. They do not have to adhere to the rules of the genre. What about the Blair witch project? That was like a documentary but completely staged! People then began to carve sub divisions in the genre and named it a mocku-mentary. I think we should allow the genre to evolve and not draw boundaries that might hinder the creation of valuable hybrids…

    More over, can the story teller ever isolate himself from the story? That can be done in theory, but simply impossible in practice. Documentaries are pieces in qualitative research and there is nothing like the total elimination of bias in that arena. So, when viewed upon as a non-fiction film, he can be allowed to celebrate every element of bias that colors and flavors his film.

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