Last week there was speculation in the American media, and far beyond, about the question: who is going to make a documentary or a fictional film about the drama of Astroworld? Or better yet, who will be the first to register? After all, in the age of news channels and fragmented vod platforms, it’s not at all unusual for a topic, or event, to be looked at from multiple angles and end up with multiple vendors. So there is a good chance that reflections on the Houston tragedy that left ten dead during a concert by rapper Travis Scott, will come in various forms. Documentary filmmakers hover like vultures around the drama.
Years ago at IDFA, the Amsterdam documentary festival that starts this week, I saw how several documentaries were partially shot during protests in Maidan Square in Kiev in 2013 and 2014. They were all personal stories of people who lived there for various reasons had happened. . A Chechen joined the uprising against President Yanukovych (who more or less allied with the Russians by not signing an association agreement with the EU); an eccentric Ukrainian who had discovered an intriguing plot wanted to express his dissatisfaction with Independence Square.
The two men, from two different documentaries, have not met. The cameras never crossed. Although they ended up in the same places, strangely enough. Nevertheless, certain events have a magnetic effect on documentary filmmakers. For example, see the movies made on the Fyre Festival (a luxury Bahamian festival that turned out to be muddy mockery): Fraud to guys (2019, Videoland) and Fyre: The Biggest Party That Ever Happened (2019, Netflix). Two essentially different films on the same subject with a bit of overlap. The latter is inevitable. And there is no doubt that Netflix and Hulu (Fraud to guys appeared in the United States on Hulu) wanted to have their own vision of the festival.
Another great example is Joe ‘Tiger King’ Exotic, who has appeared for years in documentaries about infamous people dealing with big cats. It’s interesting how the creators of Netflix hit King tiger portray him – as some kind of flamboyant but weakened sympathizer – and how Louis Theroux portrayed him this spring: as a disabled person. Theroux obviously does not like sensationalism and excessive feelings. Theroux is also opposed to prejudices and unfair suggestions. So seems King tiger and Theroux’s documentary are completely different.
Fortunately, this pluriformity, as it is so nicely called, is still very much alive, and can be seen at festivals like IDFA. In fact, it’s not such a bad development that tragedies are discussed from different angles. Although Astroworld may also deserve the approach of Theroux, or a Nick Broomfield, to name just one. A film made by a documentary maker who really tries to get to the heart of the matter with a certain distance, instead of just digging up tasty and creamy anecdotes. At a time when the border between documentary and reality TV is blurring more and more, we desperately need people like that.
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