This Is Not a Film: An Exploratory Examination of Recent Mockumentaries and Their Relation to New Forms of Representation of the Real

AIM presentation 4/10/’13

Title: This Is Not a Film: An Exploratory Examination of Recent Mockumentaries and Their Relation to New Forms of Representation of the Real.”

 Mélanie Cravero (

 Abstract Some reality shows were announced to be faked in order to start a discussion about the boundaries between reality and fiction in the post-documentary context of reality TV. The controversies did not only illustrate the high media interest in the presentation of the real but also documented how the public perception of programs between reality and fiction had changed with the viewer’s growing experience of the genre. However, more recent scripted reality formats which are also faked, such as mockumentaries, have no longer provoked similar public discussions (Beck et al., 2012: 13). In their extended analysis, Jane Roscoe and Craig Hight (2010) define mockumentaries as a genre which deliberately blurs the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction in order to subvert the well-established genre of the documentary tradition. However, not only do these hybrid factuality programs play with documentary forms and simulation techniques but they also challenge the documentary’s relationship to the real. As such, they belong to a broader context of cultural experiences that adopt a self-conscious, sometimes critical relationship to the authentic-seeming, worth exploring further (King, 2005). In fact, beyond a mere subversion of factuality, I believe that mockumentaries constitute new forms of truth-based projects which perpetuate the documentary tradition to represent social realities by engaging audiences in a critical reflection about the constructed nature of any fact-based discourses. Within a contemporary media landscape which fostered the production and consumption of reality based formats, the ambivalence between factual and fictitious production of reality seems to reflect the recent spate of films that exploit ambiguities between documentation and fiction; and the release of three mockumentary films in 2010 has raised numerous questions as to the extent to which these films blended facts with fiction. In fact, Exit Through the Gift Shop, 2010; I’m Still Here, 2010; and Catfish, 2010 – in which what appears to be an empirical record unfolding in real time eventually proves to be a dramatic reconstruction or partially scripted drama – will constitute by objects of analysis to further explore new strategies of representation of the real.

By looking at mockumentary filmmaking as a contemporary form of representing the real through staged authenticity, m aim was to analyze such practices as part of a growing culture of the spectacle of the real (reality shows, docu-soap, Facebook, YouTube). Besides, the faith in moving images to claim the truth is now more than ever put into question with regard to increasing technological manipulations. Therefore, I will hereby try to demonstrate that even though mockumentary are fabricated truths (content) they address contemporary issues (discourse) embedded in the world we live in, and subsequently participate in an ongoing documentary tradition. 

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