Tweet Reddit Share


On Saturday evening, I watched one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen: Searching for Sugar Man. The story told by the documentary has made a small media splash, so maybe you’re acquainted with the story. If not, don’t read about it first. Just rent it and let the story unfold.

Rotten Tomatoes: 96% approval. IMDB: 8.1. Those are astounding figures for a documentary, putting it on par with movies like Good Will Hunting, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Gone with the Wind.

My praise should also raise a few eyebrows, incidentally. Not because I’m much of a movie critic, but because I generally dislike documentaries. I dislike them for two reasons:

(1) They give people a false sense of accomplishment/learning. People watch documentaries and feel good about themselves, thinking they’re educating themselves. And to some degree, they’re right: they are learning. But when you realize that the average adult can read the text of an hour-long documentary in about five minutes, you realize that you’re learning at a retarded pace. If you see a documentary that interests you, read about it on Wikipedia instead. You’ll learn ten times more in the same amount of time.

(2) They make strong impressions. The video format is shockingly powerful, giving documentaries far more influential power over the mind than they merit. As 60 Minutes has demonstrated through its frequently borderline fraudulent yet powerful episodes, the documentary maker can push pretty much any agenda he wants, without regarding to truth or accuracy. The ability to edit film and present it in the mesmerizing video medium is a great power. . . . and one often abused.

Sugar Addendum

I just noticed that Sugar Man won best documentary at the Academy Awards last night. I didn’t even know it had been nominated.

Something for Lent

“He is the God of unbounded freedom who willed to be bound by love.” Richard John Neuhaus