Thursday, 20 January 2011

3 Documentaries 9 Directors

Catfish is an annoying documentary about Facebook and our shiny, digital relationships. A trio of film makers decide to investigate the backstory of a young girl who has been making paintings of one of the groups photography after incongruities appear in their online communiques. It's taken a lot of flack about it's authenticity recently and I'm not surprised as some of the segments reek of staging and all the characters involved seemed remarkably happy to appear on screen, it's not terrible but I found the trio quite irritating- they are American dimwits though, and ultimately I just wasn't too interested, not being that sort of intertube user. As for it's truthiness either it's real and is kind of exploitative or it's fake and it's just another meta-movie swipe about reality in our electronic lives.

There's no shortage of real life however in Last Train Home, a good old fashioned warts 'n' all social documentary about a Chinese family's struggles to return home to their family for the New Year's celebrations revealing the tribulations of your average Chinese factory worker's life in the process. Described in the film as the world's largest annual human migration the scenes at train stations & platforms are quite staggering but the film is strongest when it exposes the generational differences developing in Chinese society as the young teenage daughter drops out of school for factory work but spends her cash on trinkets and nights out instead of sending it home. Though I guess you could question it's authenticity too as there's at least one scene where the role of the filmmakers comes to the fore it's nonetheless a beautifully shot, fascinating film.

Freakonomics is a multi-director documentary based on the best selling economics book of the same name. Over the five segments there's bits on name correspondences, sumo corruption, incentivism and the correlation between pregnancy & crime and it's all banded together with the two authors in a room and some kooky contemporary animations. Given the talents of Gibney, Jarecki and Ewing I had high hopes for this but the individual contributions are of mixed quality and the whole thing is a bit underwhelming - I appreciate maths is a pretty hard sell at the best of times but maybe if they'd chosen more congruous chapters from the book or used a single director even they could have told us a better narrative from the complex-ish numbers.

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