Land Without Bread (1933): Let’s create two categories: There are mockumentaries, which confess to being fraudulent (This Is Spinal Tap), and there are fake documentaries, which purport—at least intitally—to be the real deal. It’s never been officially confirmed whether this early work by Luis Buñuel, which allegedly documents the almost cartoonish poverty and despair of Spain’s Las Hurdes region, is real or an acidic spoof on nonfiction’s inability to capture objective, untarnished reality. But it shows its hand subtly. As we see a mountain goat fall to its death, we also see gunsmoke behind the camera. And people we’re told are inbred 28-year-olds are pretty obviously just children.
Break Up the Dance (1957): Roman Polanski is a terrible person. He was almost thrown out of film school for this short, which started out as a fiction film about a nice school dance. Then he decided he wanted to make it nonfiction, so he hired a bunch of thugs to come in and beat up his cast. Roll cameras.
David Holzman’s Diary (1967): So realistic and spot-on was Jim McBride’s French New Wave-inspired meta-film—which acts as the filmed journals of a New York cinephile—that it took till the credit “L.M. Kit Carson as David Holzman” to break the spell.
Dadetown (1996): Russ Hexter’s first and last film—he died before its limited release—visits a small town just as social warfare erupts between the longtime, blue-collar factory workers and the yuppies moving in and dramatically alters the economic outlay. Or does it? (Hint: David Holzman.)
The Last Broadcast (1998): Credited with being The Blair Witch Project before The Blair Witch Project, this eerily Blair Witch-y (and locally made) horror made the world safe for the endless Paranormal Activities you’ll be seeing ads for every October for the rest of your life.
I’m Still Here (2010): I mean, unless Joaquin Phoenix really is challenging Rick Ross to rap’s best beard and 50 Cent to most mumbling.
Robert Rodriguez’s Machete—which makes good on the nonpromises of Grindhouse’s third-best fake trailer—is a big, dumb, questionable vigilante picture, but with a firm anti-anti-immigration stance.
Though it was first performed in 1990, the musical Bran Nue Dae—now a splashy film version and the runt of the current Australian film renaissance—fits right in with today’s disgustingly perky, low-substance song-and-dance movement.
Six Long-Running Film Franchises