“Mockumentary,” as the “mock” prefix implies, is the mischievous twin of the documentary. • Drawing on mobile, hand-hand cameras, voice-over narration, interviews, and other stylistic tropes of the documentary toolbox, mockumentaries are essentially fictions, seeking to satirize the depicted event or character for an analytic or rhetorical purpose.
At the same time, mockumentaries often parody the tenets of documentary form and technique, calling attention to the ways that documentaries (and films in general) are constructions involving a negotiation between filmmakers, equipment, and subject matter, rather than a technological process that offers unmediated access to “the real.”
In other words: • A mockumentary is a work of fiction that pretends to be a documentary. • How does it pretend to be a documentary? By utilizing documentary camera techniques that we have already talked about.
Documentary Form + Documentary Content = Documentary Documentary Form + Fictional Content = Mock-documentary • Fictional Form + Documentary Content = DocudramaFictional Form+ Fictional Content = Fiction
This is Spinal Tap (1984) • It was in reviews of this film that the term “mock-documentary” and then “mockumentary” began to surface in the mainstream press, which in turn helped push the phrase into the pop culture lexicon. Spinal Tap presents itself as a “rockumentary,” offering an all-access look at an aging British rock band’s less-than-spectacular return tour in the United States. Shaky footage of roadies unloading sound gear out of trucks, interviews with the band conducted by director Rob Reiner, and shots of the group’s high-energy music performances were all part of the film. However, the exaggerated quality of the band’s on-stage antics, their circular and ridiculous testimony subverted any sense of actual insight. Instead, the characters’ outrageous self-presentations serve as a form of humorous evaluation of the pomposity of male rock stars during this period, their inflated personas, and the way they were so often idolized within the rock documentary itself.
This is Spinal Tap (1984) • IT WAS NOT A REAL BAND. • But a lot of people thought it was. A LOT. In the end, the actors decided to go with it--they put out an album and went on tour as a band.
Cult film / cult following • The film developed what is known as a “cult following.” This means that it has a very devoted group of fans. (Like the Rocky Horror Picture Show or Star Wars). Most “cult films” initially were only moderately successful, but after time develop a very loyal fan base.
Mockumentary Now . . . • The Office • Modern Family • The Blair Witch Project
Add to your working vocabulary of film stuff: • Mockumentary • Cult following / cult film