A mock documentary is successful when it is able to combine both the appearance of historically accurate elements and present believable situations through a false lens, leading the audience to question the reality of what they are seeing. The genre of false documentary aims to present a convincing story through the use of credible documentary tactics to portray a "fictional documentary." Every mock documentary depends on its viewers believing its premise. The illusion of believability is most often either confirmed or destroyed by the credits. Frequently the audience first learns the people on the screen were actors, and that they have fallen prey to the thick veil of believability that documentary films are so able to portray. To capture the audiences trust directors of mock documentary films apply many of the tactics and conventions Mock documentaries serve to leave the audience questioning the reality and believability of what they view in the theatre and at home. The mock documentary can be both real and fake, both shocking and humorous, both projected and actual.
The origin of the mockumentary ranges back to the very beginning of film. The mock documentary as a genre owes a great deal to both fiction and nonfiction films. But, since a mockumentary adopts the formal behavior of a documentary it asserts a sense of believability. In the late twentieth century documentary films used an element of fakery to add to the plausibility of the footage. War scenes were also depicted by cardboard cutouts of boats and often staged in backyard lagoons. In Robert Flaherty's 1922 film, Nanook of the North, Eskimo life was supposed to be shown as it existed without influence....
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...ist, though the larger world that encompasses that specific world does exist and can be studied through the lens of the smaller, more specific world. By making assertions about its projected world a mock documentary, like a traditional documentary, can refer to the actual world.
Nichols, B. (1994). Blurred Boundaries. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
Barnouw, E. (1993). Documentary: A History of the Non-Fiction Film. New York: Oxford University Press.
Eitzen, D. (1995). "When Is a Documentary? Documentary as a Mode of Reception." Cinema Journal. v.35, n.1, p.92-94.
This Is Spinal Tap. Dir. Rob Reiner, 1984, US.
Man Bites Dog. Dir. Benoit Poelvoorde, Remy Belvaux, Andre Bonzel, 1991, BEL.
Waiting For Guffman. Dir. Christopher Guest, 1996, US.
The Blair Witch Project. Dir. Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sanchez, 1999, US.
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