The Tribeca Film Festival is now underway, and while the focus remains on hard-hitting issues such as September 11 and the war in Iraq, film programmers have subtly added something new to the roster: the mockumentary.
The blurry world of the fictional take on reality has evolved since the "Spinal Tap" days, and Tribeca is one of the firsts to formally acknowledge that the mockumentary is no longer just something to laugh about. "Professional Amateurs: Mocking the Truth" is a panel specifically designed to examine this burgeoning cinematic style, bringing a group that includes Daily Show correspondent Ed Helms, actor/director Bob Balaban, and his "A Mighty Wind" co-star, Michael McKean (a mockumentary vet as Spinal Tap's original David St. Hubbins).
And then there are the films. "Pittsburgh," a hilarious mockumentary about Jeff Goldblum's quest to return to his hometown of Pittsburgh and star in a staging of "The Music Man" gives you that creepy "Curb Your Enthusiasm" feeling that maybe, just maybe, this guy is not joking. While similar in humor and tone to Balaban's work, "Pittsburgh" has invented it's own genre: the bio-mock.
The titles say it all with "Air Guitar Nation" and "Al Franken: God Spoke." While not technically mockumentaries, these two are good examples of documentaries that lovingly poke fun of their subject matters and the documentary tradition. "Colour Me Kubrick," starring John Malkovitch as an eccentic Stanley Kubrick impersonator, also blurs the boundaries between fact and fiction. The amount of zeal and charisma that Malkovitch brings to the role calls to mind the late Brando's style of method acting.
But the real "gotcha" of the group is "Street Thief," the enfant terrible of Tribeca. The press still doesn't know whether to call this film a documentary, mockumentary or feature-length narrative. "Caper flick" doesn't even begin to describe it - director Malik Bader follows Kaspar Carr, Chicago's most elusive burglar as he cases movie theaters, designs elaborate disguises, and robs stores. The movie was initially billed as a documentary at Tribeca, but slowly news started to trickle out about the film's unorthodox techniques: some of the scenes were fabricated, the infamous burglar didn't exist, then he did exist, and then later some speculated that the burglar in the film was actually the director.
All this speculation would only be of casual interest to the public were it not for the fact that about two weeks ago, this little number appeared in the New York Daily News Allegedly, Sam Bader, who happens to be the film's producer and the director's brother, was arrested in New York for charges arising from a delivery truck hijacking last month in Illinois.
The questions, just who is Kaspar Carr? And what are the Bader Brothers up to? still remains delightfully unclear, but rest assured, this little blogger has contacted Bader Brother Productions and is looking into the story. For now, what I can tell you is that the film's world premiere at Tribeca (this Saturday, April 29th) is already sold out, and rumor has it that director Malik Bader will be on hand to answer questions. But as the film world is fast discovering, the Bader Brothers are experts when it comes to rumors and shadowy illusions.
"Street Thief" may just be the next "Blair Witch Project," and in my humble opinion that's paying the old "Witch" a compliment.