See If You Are Really Real

Cinema is Still Better Equipped to Capture Reality Than Documentaries

Still from Jean-Luc Godard's "Image Book". (Kino Lorber).

Why are documentaries so popular now? It’s been at least a decade, but I can’t remember the moment when documentaries went from vegetables to junk food in the eyes of the American public. In the 2000s, they finally started to succeed regularly in theaters, but only one or two a year: Super Size Me, March of the Penguins, An Inconvenient Truth, Bowling for Columbine, and Fahrenheit 9/11 made a lot of money. The 1980s had Shoah and the 1990s had Hoop Dreams, but neither cleaned up like Michael Moore. Besides producing two of the most successful documentaries in history, Moore became one of the most recognizable directors in the world, never refusing a television spot, a lecture, or a protest for pick your cause. But Moore didn’t change popular taste: he may still be well known, but he hasn’t made a movie anyone can name since 2004.

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Nicky Otis Smith is a filmmaker and writer. He was born and raised in New York City and has lived in Baltimore since 2003.

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