Documentary films can be exciting, delightful, sensitive, boring, informative, sensual, observant or journalistic – and occasionally they can even be entertaining or downright funny. The latter does not happen very often, though. Perhaps directors are afraid to betray the truth or reality by making it too amusing? Yet for a film to change things and open up the audience’s eyes to the world around them, the director has to take a critical look at his/her formal approaches as well. And in this context, humour is an excellent eye-opener.
We want to entertain. Laughing is good for you, and it’s healthy to poke fun at experts, the elite and the rich. It may not be quite as good for them in return, but it is healthy for us and for society. Especially if you remember to laugh at yourself once in a while.
Trying to resemble a fiction film is not an entertaining venture in itself. When the form of a film becomes so predictable that it irritates the audience and overshadows the content, the director will already be far removed from contributing any significant artistic expression and the film will lose its unique voice. And a unique voice is imperative for any film – because without it, the film is reduced to pop or mainstream culture.
My purpose in making a documentary is to stamp out nicety, eradicate the anxious desire to please and destroy opportunistic trendism. Open the floodgates to wildness, surrealism, subversion and satire! Because we seem to be afraid to make films that take a stand. Or make a mistake. Or are unpredictable or not recognisable right off the bat. Where are the films where ambiguity is not only a fog, but an artistic and perhaps even a humorous choice? We must run the risk of being wrong, of casting the first stone and of challenging preposterousness. And we should do this using a cinematic form that does not ingratiate and does not sugar-coat the issues to make them more palatable. Because then it becomes hypocritical and hollow. And because there’s nothing better than a documentary film that wises up during the process in a way we couldn’t have foreseen.
This is where docomedy enters the picture. This genre is specifically intended for documentary films dealing with and satirising various authorities and institutions of power – be they warmongering generals, sacrosanct priests of any religious persuasion, the smug world of advertising, incompetently implemented local policy, one’s own ridiculous superego, unscrupulous tabloid editors, manifesto-authoring film directors, and so on and so forth.
I want to lay the groundwork for films that dare to undermine – and have fun doing it.
1. A docomedy is based on reality: at least 85% of the images must have been shot in the real world and not in a studio. In other words, a certain amount of fabricated sequences are allowed, as is the adding of one’s own music. A certain amount of fictionalisation should actually be expected!
2. A “docomedy” must make use of more than one, and preferably several features of the film comedy genre, but it is up to you to choose which. As different people think different things are funny, comedy can also be many different things-but slapstick is definitely on the agenda! In other words, making a documentary that is a little amusing now and then is not enough, nor is it enough to make a comedy that has visual documentary inserts.
3. The comical aspects must be based on the real ones! This means that the comedy must be satirical and relate to the documentary aspects and the documentary must relate to satirical aspects. Precisely how is up to you to find out. This is probably where things get difficult.
4. A docomedy must be subversive (in one way or another) and not conservative and must be funny without being anxious to please. And this applies to both form and content!
5. There are no other rules than the above four-and, well, this next one, too. Which is: you must follow the rules to the best of your ability!
So let’s explore and expand the wonderful world of the documentary in this way. Forget about putting on airs and put on a big red nose instead -or put one on somebody else and make some docomedies. I could do with a good laugh at someone in a festival cinema – or if not at others, then at myself or other directors who are not afraid to look ridiculous.