6. Kenny (Clayton Jacobson, 2006)
A labour of love for the Jacobson brothers, Kenny is a 2006 Australian mockumentary about a plumber. The film was written and produced by Shane and Clayton Jacobson, whilst Clayton also directed (his feature film debut) and edited and Shane starred as Kenny, the plumber with a heart of gold at the centre of the story.
The film follows Kenny, a plumber with a business that provides portable toilets for large events. Kenny is a philosophising type, who sees most of the world through the most basic of human needs and considers himself a professional in his field. Never ashamed of what he does, he goes about his way whilst dealing with his ex-wife, sick father, rich brother, many clients and his son who he loves dearly.
But when he gets the opportunity to go to Nashville in the U.S. to attend the Pump and Cleaner Expo, his life might turn around as his no nonsense charm endears him to both a flight attendant and a Japanese businessman at the Expo, who is seeking services on a grand scale that Kenny might just be able to provide.
Surprisingly funny whilst also being exceedingly sweet and disarming, Kenny is a wonderful mockumentary which didn’t get enough exposure outside of Australia. In Australia, Shane Jacobson won Best Actor awards at both the Australian Film Institute and the Film Critics Circle of Australia. The movie was also nominated for many other awards, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Editing. If you like a good mockumentary or comedies with their heart in the right place, Kenny is absolutely worth your time.
5. Zelig (Woody Allen, 1983)
A fantastic mockumentary that pre-dates Forrest Gump (with which it shares the concept of having a fictional regular individual inserted into various real-life important historical moments) by more than a decade, Zelig is a great early entry into the genre by Woody Allen and a fairly unique film in the director’s lengthy filmography.
Woody Allen plays Leonard Zelig here, a man who is so insecure around others and feels such a strong need to conform that he has the ability to mimic both the manner of speech and physical features of anyone he comes in contact with. Dubbed the “human chameleon”, Zelig becomes a national celebrity in the 1920’s and even has a dance named after him as well as finding himself the subject of a large-scale biopic.
Mia Farrow plays Dr. Eudora Fletcher, a psychiatrist who takes an interest in Zelig’s case when he is admitted to her hospital and manages to temporarily cure him of his condition. The two end up falling in love but the constant media attention drives them apart and cause Zelig to have a relapse. He disappears and tries fitting in wherever he goes again until Dr. Fletcher ultimately finds him in Germany, working with the Nazi’s before the outbreak of World War II.
One of Woody Allen’s greatest films, albeit a lesser known and unique work within his oeuvre, Zelig has all the characteristics of Allen’s work. There’s New York, psychotherapy, jazz and even a magical twist.
But what makes this film stand out is the form (it’s one of two mockumentaries Allen made in his career, the other being Take The Money And Run), the concept of placing Zelig in real-life historical events and the great lengths which were taken to recreate the period as well as the technological wizardry used to seamlessly insert his character into actual footage. The film also features interviews with real-life characters like Susan Sontag, Irving Howe and Saul Bellow to add to its flavour and was nominated for two Academy Awards and five BAFTA awards.
4. Best in Show (Christopher Guest, 2000)
Of all the mockumentaries directed by Christopher Guest, Best in Show takes the cake and might in fact only be topped in the genre by that other infamous little film Guest co-wrote, which we’ll get to later on. Whilst A Mighty Wind, Waiting for Guffman and For Your Consideration are all fine Christopher Guest mockumentaries, Best in Show remains the best of the lot and I doubt he will ever top it.
A wickedly funny faux-documentary which details the trials and tribulations of a bunch of contestants at a dog show as they are followed by a documentary crew before, during and after the competition. The characters seem completely over the top and outrageous and yet somehow still fully believable too. The whole Christopher Guest crew is present here and some of them give the best characterisations of eccentric and oddball characters in their careers.
Over the years Christopher Guest has assembled a crew a fine regulars around him and they are all represented and in a great form in Best in Show. The ensemble cast of Guest himself, Fred Willard, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Bob Balaban, Parker Posey, Michael Hitchcock, Michael McKean, John Michael Higgins, Jennifer Coolidge and Jane Lynch all completely kill it here and Best in Show won Best Comedy at both the American and British comedy awards in addition to a string of other awards. Well observed and simply hilarious, Best in Show is one hell of a funny movie and one of the most hilarious mockumentaries ever made.
3. Exit Through The Gift Shop (Banksy, 2010)
This documentary, mockumentary or as New York Times movie reviewer Jeannette Catsoulis suggested “prankumentary”, was the brilliant debut film by British street artist Banksy and is maybe simply best described as a total mindfuck as the viewer ultimately has no idea what’s actually real and what was staged specifically for the movie.
The film starts off by telling the story of Thierry Guetta, a French guy in Los Angeles, who is totally obsessed with street art and videotaping everything that occurs in his daily life. Whilst vacationing in France, he discovers that his cousin is the street artist who goes by the moniker Space Invader and starts following him around with his camera. One thing leads to another and soon Thierry is following Shepard Fairey back in LA, documenting his every move, which in turn leads to Thierry being introduced to Banksy, who he also starts following and taping.
But when Thierry finally starts cutting his footage into a documentary, the results are disastrous and Banksy decides to take over the project. At the same time, Thierry changes his name to Mr. Brainwash and starts producing his own art works whilst planning a major show to display them. Within no time, Thierry is the hot new kid on the block and starts selling his work for staggering amounts of money, whilst Banksy now documents his story, making Thierry the subject of the documentary he initially was directing.
Exit Through The Gift Shop is an absolutely unique piece of work by the illustrious, subversive and idiosyncratic artist known as Banksy. Whilst Banksy keeps insisting that the story is real, it all appears like one huge elaborate hoax, planned by the artist and his cohorts. But ultimately no one seems to know and that just adds to the film’s genius.
Part street art documentary, part Banksy documentary, part Thierry Guetta aka Mr Brainwash documentary, part comment on the commercialisation of art and all one big joke, Exit Through The Gift Shop is a film like no other, which will leave you wondering about what the hell you just witnessed, long after the credits roll. If anything, it’s just further proof of Bansky’s many talents and one of a kind type of commentary.
2. Man Bites Dog (C’est Arrivé Près de Chez Vous) (Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel & Benoît Poelvoorde, 1992)
Certainly not for everybody but if you like your humour pitch-black, Man Bites Dog comes highly recommended. Mockumentaries don’t come much funnier and darker than this. The film was the feature film directorial debut of Belgian filmmakers Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel and Benoît Poelvoorde, all of whom also wrote and starred in the film, with Poelvoorde playing the lead character and Belvaux and Bonzel appearing as part of the camera crew that follows him around.
A mockumentary about a film crew that follows a philosophising serial killer as he goes about his business and that slowly becomes more involved in his practices, the movie is a satire of “reality” and violence obsessed media, starring its three writer-directors as the killer and the camera crew that follows him. A very violent film, Man Bites Dog is certainly not for the faint of heart but if you’re into nihilistic and dark humor, you can’t go past this one.
Audiences were severely divided over this film when it first came out in 1992, as the extreme content didn’t go down well with everybody, but there’s no denying that this is a superbly made film which has a lot of interesting things to say about the way violence is portrayed in the media. The decision to make this in mockumentary form was partly a financial one as the film was produced on a shoe-string budget, but this in fact becomes one of the movie’s main strengths as the faux-documentary look only adds to the immediacy and impact of the visceral violence on screen.
The film was screened at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival where it won the SACD award for Best Feature and the Special Award of the Youth for directors Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel and Benoît Poelvoorde. Whilst Belvaux and Bonzel were not able to turn the success of their debut feature into lengthy careers, Poelvoorde has been a prolific Belgian actor ever since. A genuine cult favourite and a masterpiece of pitch-black comedy.
1. This is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner, 1984)
There was no way that This is Spinal Tap wasn’t going to top this list. Is it the best mockumentary ever made? Who knows, but it certainly is the one mockumentary that all other ones are compared against. Aside from that, it is also the only film on IMDB to have a rating that goes up to eleven and that has to count for something.
Following the exploits of British metal band Spinal Tap whose key members are David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer), and Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) (who all also co-wrote the film with director Rob Reiner), and a series of ill-fated drummers, who all die under bizarre circumstances. The band is followed by documentary filmmaker Marty Di Bergi (Reiner), who accompanies the band on their first American tour in years to promote their latest album, Smell The Glove.
The movie basically consists of a series of vignettes, most fully improvised by the cast, interviews with the band members and some background footage of the band members’ previous endeavours. Highlights are too many to mention here but include those amplifiers that go up to eleven, St. Hubbins setting off airport security because he is carrying a tinfoil wrapped cucumber in his crotch and a Stonehenge megalith prop for their stage show which turns out to be 18 inches high instead of the intended 18 feet.
Although This is Spinal Tap didn’t do great business when it was first released, the film found a far larger audience once it was came out on home video, turning into a genuine sensation and cult phenomenon. The film is such a pitch-perfect spoof of rock bands and the documentary form that many people at the time actually thought they were dealing with a real band. And in way they ended up being right, as Spinal Tap became so popular that they have actually released three real-life albums (one being the soundtrack of the movie and two more albums in 1992 and 2009).
Featuring a plethora of guest appearances and cameos, including Fran Drescher, Ed Begley Jr, Fred Willard, Anjelica Huston, Billy Crystal and many more, This is Spinal Tap is the ultimate mockumentary and more than likely the best spoof of rock music we are ever likely to see. “It is a fine line between stupid and….clever”
Author Bio: Emilio has been a movie buff for as long as he can remember and holds a Masters Degree in Cinema Studies from the University of Amsterdam. Critical and eclectic in taste, he has been described to “love film but hate all movies”. For daily suggestions on what to watch, check out his Just Good Movies Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/goodmoviesuggestions.