We learned from JFK and especially from Errol Morris’ The Thin Blue Line that there exists a small margin where a film is documentary and a where the same movie is a work of fiction. Obviously, a movie is a work of fiction if it is demonstrably or explicitly false: the author of the script made up a story, likely based on his experience or close cousins thereof, and this story receives a visual interpretation. There also exists movies more truth than fiction, whose story spine errs heavily in favor of honest, actual events, whose false parts are either included for narrative’s sake or to intentionally confound an audience. Some genres require more (horror/suspense), and others, less (period piece).
A film is either true, or as true as possible, or false with elements of truth, even if the truth is capital-T truth. All media needs some sort of relatable element, even a sliver of something to grasp. Otherwise, perhaps on purpose, the film will be nonsense incarnate and unwatchable. We can be sure, though, that no film is one-hundred-percent truth, even if it bills itself as documentary. Even primary sources, firsthand accounts of events that for certain happened, have fallibility: the human memory is imperfect. Continue reading