Monday, 24 November 2008

Stupid film

I went to see a film with lovely Mathilde the other day.

It was by and with a man called Antoine de Maximy, who is known for travelling the world and making documentaries. He has a very specific style: he attaches cameras to himself and films his time abroad. He does not have an itinerary but merely goes from place to place trying to meet and talk to people, with the aim of understanding the country through its ordinary citizens. The result? A biased, anti-American mess.

In reality, very very few people would actually consider speaking to an eccentric and not very tidy Frenchman in the street, particularly one who asks whether he could have dinner at your house or sleep on your couch. Consequently the only people willing to speak to him meaningfully are hippies, homeless people or very very underprivileged people (eg. those who live without electricty). I don't take anything away from these people - on the contrary: their generosity, courage, strength make them the stars of the film and a real inspiration. Having been judged, they don't judge de Maximy, often going out of their way to help him.

But something that calls itself a documentary also has to at least try to show the other side. I'm not even talking mega wealth, but de Maximy could have tried to go to a college to speak to students, or to shopowners or, I don't know, tried to represent something a little more 'average', a little more heartening. Because the people featured were not representative, and de Maximy seems to have made no attempt to represent fairly. And that is unsurprising when you consider how socialist France is politically (the Democrat Party in the USA is so much more right wing than the French equivalent). The agenda seems to have been the following:

'Cinema goer, you think you know America. You came here to see beautiful views, Ivy League Schools and National Parks, perhaps a few famous sights, even. But you don't know America. This is America'.

And I resent that. It is patronising to the viewer, not to mention completely biased.
I know that there isn't one America. I know that not everyone is comfortable, middle class etc. But that's not what I wanted to see. I wanted intelligent treatment of religion; I wanted variety and balance. America is an inspiration to me, its spirit is unshakeable and, as the recent election has shown, is a place where anything is possible. It deserves more intelligent treatment in a documentary. Huge disappointment, but then what did I expect?


Anonymous said...

Insightful. Thanks for not hating us Americans. Some of us are ok, although, admittedly, some of us are not.

Thanks for the comment and I'm very happy to follow your blog!