Country: New Zealand
it’s a fictional documentary directed by peter jackson. yes, most would call it a mockumentary, but that might be misleading since you probably first think of “this is spinal tap” when thinking of mockumentaries. this film does poke fun at documentaries and it does have a tongue in cheek aspect to it, but it’s not the all out fake that spinal tap is. the film follows peter jackson as he retells his unearthing of some old reels of film that some old lady brought to his attention. these old reels, it turns out, were but a small sampling of the cinematic genius of the fictional filmmaker colin mckenzie. the rest of the mockumentary follows jackson as he researches the life and work of mckenzie. in order to sell the authenticity of the documentary, jackson enlisted the help of harvey weinstein, sam neill, and leonard maltin who offer up fairly convincing testimony to the lost genius of colin mckenzie. i went into the film knowing it was a fake, but i’m fairly confident that i would have been able to figure it out without the foreknowledge of its true purpose. there are a good number of decent clues in the film and knowing peter jackson and his sense of humor would have been enough for me to put things together. at the time of its release, however, there were several disappointed viewers who bought into the film and wrote into the television station to voice their displeasure after they discovered the truth. apparently jackson even got a few letters from supposed film majors who claimed to have known of mckenzie’s work before they had seen the documentary. people are funny.
what amazed me about the film was its ability to create this fictional non-fiction which could inspire moments of both laughter and pathos. it was able to walk a fine line between all out parody and actual documentary that, frankly, boggles the mind. towards the end of the “documentary” we see “recovered” footage of mckenzie filming a scene as a war photographer. at one point he puts his camera on the ground to help a wounded soldier and is gunned down in the process. the scene is both funny and touching because, in an odd way, despite the satirical tone of the film, they have actually created a sympathetic character.
it’s also a film that must have been infinitely enjoyable to make. there was so much “stock footage” that they had to create and they did that really well, using all sorts of different methods. sometimes they just filmed something in black and white and made it dirty or scratchy, and other times they used digital technology to create the desired effects…interesting and entertaining stuff.