These productions are often used to analyze or comment on current events and issues by using a fictional setting, or to parody the documentary form itself. While mockumentaries are usually comedic, pseudo-documentaries are their dramatic equivalents. However, pseudo-documentary should not be confused with docudrama, a fictional genre in which dramatic techniques are combined with documentary elements to depict real events. Also, docudrama is different from docufiction; a genre in which documentaries are contaminated with fictional elements.
Mockumentaries are often presented as historical documentaries, with B roll and talking heads discussing past events, or as cinéma vérité pieces following people as they go through various events. Examples emerged during the 1950s when archival film footage became available. A very early example was a short piece on the "Swiss Spaghetti Harvest" that appeared as an April Fools' prank on the British television program Panorama in 1957.
Mockumentaries are often partly or wholly improvised, as an unscripted style of acting helps to maintain the pretense of reality. Comedic mockumentaries rarely have laugh tracks, also to sustain the atmosphere, although exceptions exist.
Music "is often employed to expose the ambiguities and fallacies of conventional storytelling; for instance by pointing at the paradoxes of the distinction between diegetic and extradiegetic music".
Early work, including Luis Buñuel's 1933 Land Without Bread, Orson Welles's 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds, various April Fools' Day news reports, and vérité-style film and television during the 1960s and 1970s, served as precursor to the genre. Early examples of mock-documentaries include The Connection (1961), A Hard Day's Night, 1964, (written by Alun Owen, purporting to describe several days in the lives of The Beatles, that would be the first feature-length mockumentary), David Holzman's Diary, 1967, Pat Paulsen for President, 1968, Take the Money and Run, 1969, The Clowns, 1970, by Federico Fellini (a peculiar hybrid of documentary and fiction, a docufiction), and All You Need Is Cash, 1978. Albert Brooks was also an early popularizer of the mockumentary style with his film Real Life, 1979, a spoof of a PBS documentary.
Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run is presented in documentary-style with Allen playing a fictional criminal, Virgil Starkwell, whose crime exploits are "explored" throughout the film. Jackson Beck, who used to narrate documentaries in the 1940s, provides the voice-over narration. Fictional interviews are interspliced throughout, especially those of Starkwell's parents who wear Groucho Marx noses and mustaches. The style of this film was widely appropriated by others and revisited by Allen himself in films such as Zelig (1983) and Sweet and Lowdown (1999).
Early use of the mockumentary format in television comedy may be seen in several sketches from Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969–1974), such as "Hell's Grannies", "Piranha Brothers", and "The Funniest Joke in the World". The Hart and Lorne Terrific Hour (1970–1971) also featured mockumentary pieces which interspersed both scripted and real-life man-in-the-street interviews, the most famous likely being "The Puck Crisis" in which hockey pucks were claimed to have become infected with a form of Dutch elm disease.
All You Need Is Cash, developed from an early series of sketches in the comedy series Rutland Weekend Television, is a 1978 television film in mockumentary style about The Rutles, a fictional band that parodies The Beatles.
Since the beginning of the 1980s, the mockumentary format has got considerable attention. The 1980 South African film The Gods Must be Crazy (along with its 1989 sequel) is presented in the manner of a nature documentary, with documentary narrator Paddy O'Byrne describing the events of the film in the manner of a biologist or anthropologist presenting scientific knowledge to viewers. In 1982, The Atomic Cafe is a Cold-War era American "mockumentary" film that made use of archival government footage from the 1950s. Woody Allen's 1983 film Zelig stars Allen as a curiously nondescript enigma who is discovered for his remarkable ability to transform himself to resemble anyone he is near, and Allen is edited into historical archive footage. In 1984, Christopher Guest co-wrote and starred in the mockumentary This is Spinal Tap, directed by Rob Reiner. Guest went on to write and direct other mockumentaries including Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind, all written with costar Eugene Levy.
Tim Robbins' 1992 film Bob Roberts was a mockumentary centered around the senatorial campaign of a right-wing stock trader and folksinger, and the unsavory connections and dirty tricks used to defeat a long-term liberal incumbent played by Gore Vidal. Man Bites Dog is a 1992 Belgian black comedy crime mockumentary written, produced, and directed by Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel, and Benoît Poelvoorde. In 1995, Peter Jackson and Costa Botes directed Forgotten Silver, which claimed New Zealand "director" Colin McKenzie was a pioneer in filmmaking. When the film was later revealed to be a mockumentary, Jackson received criticism for tricking viewers. In 1998, director Mike Clattenburg wrote and directed a short film titled One Last Shot, which was shot in black-and-white. The film followed the exploits, in documentary style, of Ricky (Robb Wells) and Julian (John Paul Tremblay), two criminals doing what they did just about every day. In 1999 a sequel feature film Trailer Park Boys, also in black-and-white, was released. Both films serve as prequels to the Trailer Park Boys television series. In 1999, Drop Dead Gorgeous by Michael Patrick Jann used the mockumentary style to narrate a fictional small-town beauty pageant as a way to satirize Middle America.
FUBAR is a 2002 Canadian mockumentary film, directed by Michael Dowse, based on the lives of two lifelong friends and head-bangers living out their lives, constantly drinking beer. King of Bollywood is a 2004 film, in fact, the first Indian film in the mockumentary genre. Directed by Piyush Jha it starred the late Om Puri and British supermodel Sophie Dahl. It tells the story of an aging Bollywood Superstar and showcases the hilarity, colour, and zany-ness of his many comeback attempts. C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America is a 2004 mockumentary presenting an alternative history in which the Confederacy won the American Civil War.
First on the Moon (Russian: Первые на Луне, Pervye na Lune) is a 2005 Russian mockumentary about a fictional 1930s Soviet landing on the Moon. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan is a controversial yet successful film from 2006 which uses this style, as does Brüno, a similar film from 2009. Sony Pictures Animation released their second animated feature, Surf's Up in 2007, which was the first of its kind to incorporate the mockumentary style into animation. REC, a 2007 Spanish film by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, uses journalism aesthetics to approach a horror universe set up in a real building in Barcelona. The film was remade in the United States as the 2008 film Quarantine. As the first installment of the REC film series, it was followed by three sequels; REC 2 in 2009, REC 3: Genesis in 2012, and REC 4 in 2014.
On the Ropes is a 2011 mockumentary film written and directed by Mark Noyce. The film follows a fictional martial-arts instructor and his rivalry with a local boxing gym. The Dirties is a 2013 comedy mockumentary film written and directed by Matt Johnson. Johnson also directed the film Operation Avalanche (2016), a mockumentary about a faked moon landing. What We Do In The Shadows is a 2014 horror/comedy mockumentary film directed and written by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement; the aforementioned directors also star in the production. The film is centered on vampire flatmates living in Wellington. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a 2016 mockumentary musical comedy starring Andy Samberg as Connor4Real, an over-the-top parody of a commercial pop star. It is filmed in the style of a typical concert documentary such as Katy Perry: Part of Me and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. Population Zero (2016) a mockumentary environmental scare film starring activism film maker Julian T. Pinder. We Make Movies (2017) is a "Making-of" mockumentary that follows an egotistical student filmmaker as he gathers his friends to help him make a movie for their local film festival.
The 1983 The Comic Strip Presents... film Bad News Tour was a spoof rockumentary about a British heavy metal band. It preceded This Is Spinal Tap by a year, but is not known to have been an influence on the U.S. film. The film led to LPs being released and the band really touring, and was followed by a sequel, More Bad News in 1987. Stella Street was a mockumentary which ran on the BBC from 1997 to 2001. It was written by Phil Cornwell, John Sessions, and Peter Richardson, and featured Cornwell and Sessions playing all the characters between them. The series was shot on handheld camcorders. Operation Good Guys, another low-budget BBC sitcom, ran for three series starting in 1997.
In television, the most notable mockumentaries in the 2000s have been ABC Australia's The Games (1998–2000), the Canadian series Trailer Park Boys (2001–present), the British shows Marion and Geoff (2000), Twenty Twelve (2011–2012) (which follows the fictional Olympic Deliverance Commission in the run-up to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games), and W1A, which follows the main characters of Twenty Twelve as they start work at the BBC, as well as The Office (2001) and its many international offshoots, and Come Fly with Me (2010), which follows the activity at a fictional airport and its variety of staff and passengers. British comedy duo Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French often presented short mockumentaries as extended sketches in their TV show French & Saunders. Discovery Channel opened its annual Shark Week on 4 Aug 2013 with Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, a mockumentary about the survival of the megalodon. Notable popular examples include sitcoms Trailer Park Boys and its films (1998–present), Parks and Recreation (2009–2015), The Office (2005-2013), and Modern Family (2009–present); the American improv comedy Reno 911! (2003–2009); the comedy series The Muppets (2015); Derek (2012–2014); the Australian Chris Lilley shows Angry Boys, Summer Heights High, We Can Be Heroes: Finding The Australian of the Year, Ja'mie: Private School Girl, People Just Do Nothing and Jonah from Tonga.
The series Documentary Now! (2015–present) on IFC, created by Saturday Night Live alumni, spoofs celebrated documentary films by parodying the style and subject of each documentary. Hight argues that television is a natural medium for mockumentary, as it provides "for extraordinarily rich sources of appropriation and commentary".
The BBC series People Like Us was first produced for radio in 1995 before a television version was made in 1999. Kay Stonham's Audio Diaries was a similarly short-lived radio mockumentary that premiered the year after People Like Us's run on Radio 4 ended.
Straddling the fence between surrealism and pop culture is this eccentric "mockumentary," subsumed entirely by stock footage from the height of the Cold War. "The Atomic Café" is pieced together with a certain clairvoyant vision that captivates and inspires as the seamless fluency of the film builds to a denouement. In the same neighborhood as "Dr. Strangelove," this cynically festive mock-serious piece /../ Because the documentary is just that, fashioned entirely out of a seamless montage of newsreel footage, government archives, and military training films, the movie itself is just a deadpan reflection of history's charade executed with an assertive wry humor that makes us question the sanity of Cold War politics.
A Mighty Wind is a 2003 American mockumentary comedy film about a folk music reunion concert in which three folk bands reunite for a television performance for the first time in decades. The film was co-written (with Eugene Levy), directed and composed by Christopher Guest. The film is widely acknowledged to reference the 2003 tribute concert to folk music producer Harold Leventhal that reunited several of the folk groups that Leventhal had managed. More broadly, the film is a parody of the American folk music revival of the early 1960s and its personalities.
Guest co-stars and reunites many of his company of actors from This Is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, and Best in Show for this film. They include Eugene Levy (who also co-wrote the screenplay), Catherine O'Hara, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Fred Willard, Bob Balaban, Ed Begley Jr., Jennifer Coolidge, John Michael Higgins, Jane Lynch and Parker Posey.Bob Roberts
Bob Roberts is a 1992 American-British satirical mockumentary film written, directed by, and starring Tim Robbins. It depicts the rise of Robert "Bob" Roberts Jr., a right-wing politician who is a candidate for an upcoming United States Senate election. Roberts is well financed, due mainly to past business dealings, and is well known for his music, which presents conservative ideas with gusto.
The film is Robbins's directorial debut, and is based on a short segment of the same title and featuring the same character that Robbins portrayed on Saturday Night Live.Docufiction
Docufiction (or docu-fiction), often confused with docudrama, is the cinematographic combination of documentary and fiction, this term often meaning narrative film.
It is a film genre which attempts to capture reality such as it is (as direct cinema or cinéma vérité) and which simultaneously introduces unreal elements or fictional situations in narrative in order to strengthen the representation of reality using some kind of artistic expression.More precisely, it is a documentary mixed with fictional elements, in real time, filmed when the events take place, and in which the main character or characters — often portrayed by non-professional or amateur actors — are essentially playing themselves, or slightly fictionalized versions of themselves, in a fictionalized scenario. In this sense, docufiction may overlap to an extent with some aspects of the mockumentary format, but the terms are not synonymous.
A film genre in expansion, it is adopted by a number of experimental filmmakers.
The neologism docufiction appeared at the beginning of the 21st century. It is now commonly used in several languages and widely accepted for classification by international film festivals.Jonah from Tonga
Jonah from Tonga is an Australian television sitcom that is written by and starring comedian Chris Lilley. The mockumentary series follows Jonah Takalua, a rebellious 14-year-old Australian boy of Tongan descent who had been introduced in Lilley's 2007 series Summer Heights High. At the conclusion of that series, Jonah was expelled from Summer Heights High. In this series, his father, Rocky Takalua, has sent him back to his homeland of Tonga to live with his uncle and their family in order to get Jonah's life back on track. The six-part series was produced by Princess Pictures and Chris Lilley in conjunction with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and screened on ABC1 in Australia, HBO in America, and BBC Three in the UK. In New Zealand Māori Television screened the first episode on 29 July 2017, but then withdrew later episodes.The entire series was available for streaming online for one weekend from 2 May to 4 May on BBC iPlayer and ABC iview, before starting a six-week run on ABC1 on 7 May 2014 and from 8 May on BBC Three. This was a first for a major Australian TV production. The series itself was a "ratings disaster" for both the ABC and BBC. It was later announced that the entire series would screen at select cinemas in several Australian cities followed by a Q and A with Chris Lilley. These events were subsequently cancelled, with refunds given and the website created to promote them removed.List of mockumentaries
This is a list of mockumentaries. Mockumentary or mock documentary is a genre of film and television, a parody presented as a documentary recording real life.Lunatics (TV series)
Lunatics is an Australian comedy mockumentary web television series that premiered on Netflix on 19 April 2019. The ten-part series, written by and starring Chris Lilley, continues the mockumentary style of his previous series.Pauly Shore Is Dead
Pauly Shore Is Dead is a 2003 American mockumentary comedy film directed, produced, co-written by, and starring Pauly Shore. It marks Shore's debut in a field other than acting.
The film is a fake documentary that begins as a semi-autobiographical retelling of Shore's early success and dwindling popularity in the late 1990s, after which it documents Shore's (fictional) attempt to fake his own death in order to drum up popularity for his films. It features many cameos.People Like Us (mockumentary)
People Like Us is a British radio and TV comedy programme, a spoof on-location documentary (or mockumentary) written by John Morton, and starring Chris Langham as Roy Mallard, an inept interviewer. Originally a radio show for BBC Radio 4 in three series from 1995 to 1997, it was made into a television series for BBC Two that was broadcast from September 1999 to June 2001.Reno 911!
Reno 911! is an American comedy television series on Comedy Central that ran from 2003 to 2009. It is a mockumentary-style parody of law enforcement documentary shows, specifically Cops, with comic actors playing the police officers. Most of the material is improvised, using a broad outline with minimal scripted material. The series spawned a film, Reno 911!: Miami, featuring the same cast. Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant and Kerri Kenney-Silver all starred in and are billed as creators of the series.Summer Heights High
Summer Heights High is an Australian mockumentary television sitcom written by and starring Chris Lilley. Set in the fictional Summer Heights High School in an outer suburb of Sydney, it is a documentary series of high-school life experience from the viewpoints of three individuals: "Director of Performing Arts" Mr G; private-school exchange student Ja'mie King; and disobedient, vulgar Tongan student Jonah Takalua. The series lampoons Australian high-school life and many aspects of the human condition and is filmed documentary-style with non-actors playing supporting characters.
As he did in a previous series, We Can Be Heroes: Finding The Australian of the Year, Lilley plays multiple characters in Heights, including the aforementioned Mr G, Ja'mie and Jonah. Filmed in Melbourne at Brighton Secondary College, the series premiered on 5 September 2007 at 9:30 pm on ABC TV and continued for 8 weekly episodes until 24 October 2007. Each episode was also released as a weekly podcast directly after its screening via both the official website and through any RSS podcast client in either WMV or MPEG-4.
Summer Heights High was a massive ratings success for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and was met with mostly positive critical reaction. In 2008, the series won a Logie Award for Most Popular Light Entertainment/Comedy Program.On 26 March 2008, it was announced that the show had been sold for international distribution to BBC Three in the United Kingdom, HBO in the United States, and The Comedy Network in Canada.Following the success of Summer Heights High, Lilley premiered his next mockumentary series Angry Boys on 11 May 2011. Alongside Angry Boys, the success of the series inspired Lilley to continue the stories of the characters in two spin-off shows; Ja'mie: Private School Girl which premiered in 2013 and focused on the character of Ja'mie King, and Jonah from Tonga which continued the story of Jonah Takalua and premiered in 2014. Lilley has long mentioned that he wishes to complete the Summer Heights series with a show that focuses on Mr G.Team Thor
Team Thor (also known as Team Thor: While You Were Fighting: A Thor Mockumentary) is a 2016 mockumentary style comedy short film directed by Taika Waititi and starring Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo as their respective Marvel Cinematic Universe characters, Thor and Bruce Banner / Hulk. The short attempts to humorously examine what the characters were doing during the events of Captain America: Civil War. It was produced as a side project before Waititi began production of his film Thor: Ragnarok for Marvel Studios. The short was met with enthusiasm from fans and spawned two sequels.The Compleat Al
The Compleat Al is a mockumentary about the life of "Weird Al" Yankovic, from his birth in 1959, to 1985. It was partially written by Yankovic and directed by Jay Levey. An abbreviated version premiered on August 7, 1985 on the Showtime network before the full film was released on video on September 25, 1985. The title of the film is a parody from the 1982 documentary The Compleat Beatles.Although it is a mockumentary, it is roughly based on Yankovic's real life. For example, Yankovic was raised in Lynwood, California, and has a degree in architecture from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. His real-life parents appear in the mockumentary, as does a picture of his real-life childhood house. Because of the mixture of Yankovic's real life and fiction, many of the film's fabricated information was accepted by fans as real. For example, the false information that Yankovic was born in a Saint Vitus hospital (the Catholic patron saint of comedy); or the film's pun which claimed his birth in an elevator signified his "rise to the top."
The mockumentary also contains clips from the first three AL-TV specials, and all of Yankovic's music videos up to 1985: "Ricky", "I Love Rocky Road", "Eat It", "I Lost on Jeopardy", "This Is the Life", "Like a Surgeon" ,"One More Minute", and "Dare to Be Stupid".
The parody also extends to the technical aspects of the film, such as the copyright warning message which starts routinely but escalates to warnings that copying the video may result in damage to your VCR, smoke may come out of your TV set, escalating to possible destruction of the planet due to the greed of the viewer.The Office (UK TV series)
The Office is a British television mockumentary sitcom first broadcast in the UK on BBC Two on 9 July 2001. Created, written, and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the programme follows the day-to-day lives of office employees in the Slough branch of the fictional Wernham Hogg paper company. Gervais also stars in the series, playing the central character David Brent.
Two six-episode series were made, along with a pair of 58-minute Christmas specials. When it was first shown on BBC Two, ratings were relatively low, but it has since become one of the most successful of all British comedy exports. As well as being shown internationally on BBC Worldwide, channels such as BBC Prime, BBC America, and BBC Canada, the series has been sold to broadcasters in over 80 countries, including ABC1 in Australia, The Comedy Network in Canada, TVNZ in New Zealand, and the pan-Asian satellite channel STAR World, based in Hong Kong. The show was first shown in the United States on Cartoon Network's late night programming block Adult Swim from 2009 to 2012.The show centres on themes of social clumsiness, the trivialities of human behaviour, self-importance and conceit, frustration, desperation and fame.
The success of the show led to a number of localised adaptations (based upon its basic story and themes) being produced for the television markets of other nations, resulting in an international Office franchise.Waiting for Guffman
Waiting for Guffman is a 1996 American mockumentary comedy film written by Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy, and directed by Guest. The film's ensemble cast (who improvised their dialogue based on Guest and Levy's story) includes Guest, Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Fred Willard, and Parker Posey.
The film's title is a reference to Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot. As in the other mockumentary films created by Guest, the majority of the dialogue is improvised. Because the film is about the production of a stage musical, it contains several original musical numbers written by Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer. The film's score was composed by William Ross.
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