This fascinating picture from documentarians Jennifer ‘Burn This Letter Please’ Tiexiera and Camilla Hall is part where-are-they-now catch up, and part ethical examination of the experiences of people who have agreed, with various degrees of willingness, to appear in documentaries.
The subjects interviewed, who should be familiar to all documentary enthusiasts, include Arthur Agee, one of the stars of the ground-breaking ‘Hoop Dreams’ which reignited an interest in the genre; Jessie Friedman from Andrew Jarecki’s extraordinary ‘Capturing the Friedmans’; and Margie Ratliff the daughter of Michael Peterson who was accused of murdering his wife and whose trial was exhaustively outlined in the Netflix-boosted true crime hit ‘The Staircase’.
Their reactions differ wildly. Agee enjoyed and continues to enjoy his role as spokesperson for young people, while Friedman, whose release from jail was aided by the renewed interest the film inspired in his case, is unsurprisingly more sanguine. Ratliff however, clearly feels violated by the documentary as well as the subsequent HBO Colin Firth-starring series of the same name. Her account of how the makers of the HBO show contacted her to ask if Sophie Turner, the actor who played her in the dramatized series, could speak to her, is particularly troubling.
The latter’s reactions in particular raises the subject of the need for some form of counselling during and after the projects, as well as financial numeration. The various documentarians interviewed also submit trenchant observations on how historically documentaries were a kind colonialist enterprise and predominantly still are, and how streaming has affected the genre and wet the public’s appetite for ever more flashy and lurid content. An essential watch for documentary followers.
Subject is released 3rd March
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