The following are excerpts from my review of Morgan Spurlock’s “POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” and a conversation I had with the director, both from Sundance and both posted at Cinematical. Due to the fact that parts of the popular documentary have changed and because of my initially harsh rating (I gave “Greatest” an ‘F’ on the iW criticWIRE), I hope to revisit the film at some point in the future and see if I still have so many problems with it.
From the review, which you can read in full here:
Many are calling the result the most meta movie of all time. Perhaps, but it’s really not that big a stretch for documentary. Especially nowadays, the non-fiction mode is full of reflexive works. Spurlock’s own ‘Super Size Me’ is about the process of making a documentary, and the same goes for far too many other first-person docs, many of them influenced by this very director (see ‘Super High Me,’ ‘No Impact Man,’ etc.). The only thing possibly different here is that Spurlock has made a film more about the behind-the-scenes stuff than the discovery of content. Again, though, it’s not the first doc to depict a director trying to raise money for his or her film, either. ‘Born Into Brothels,’ frustratingly, did that too.
Here’s a section of my interview with Spurlock where he discusses documentary sponsorship in general:
Documentaries have historically been sponsored by companies. And today many documentaries are simply feature-length advertisements for anything from causes, organizations, books and even products. You’re just being more upfront and honest about it, but I wondered if you could address that greater need for sponsored funding for non-fiction.
It’s so hard to make documentaries. By hook or by crook, I think people want to make sure these stories get told. A lot of organizations and foundations will pay for movies that will just talk about their cause and what they do. And yeah, I don’t think it’s clear to the people who watch it that it is actually almost like a promo video for what these people do. But at the same time I think, is it important to get those kinds of movies out for people to see? Absolutely.
Like if ‘Super Size Me’ had actually been brought to you by some kind of health food.
Yeah, who would that have been? Or, some diet product. It was actually brought to you by the broccoli lobby.
I heard you asked a few fast food places, including McDonald’s, to be a part of ‘The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.’ Would that have been a sacrifice of your integrity given the circumstances of ‘Super Size Me’?
How ironic would that have been? Yeah, possibly. We asked them all. And none of them would even call me back. It was amazing. In-N-Out Burger wouldn’t even call me back. And I’m like, In-N-Out is a place that I think would want to do something cool. But no, apparently not.
Also, here’s his reasoning for why it’s being released this month:
You’re not going to release the “docbuster” in the summer?
Well, the thing with a docbuster is we should release it just before the blockbusters so we can get a little more ramp on time. Because in a perfect world, what you want to see happen is the docbuster gets to play out the whole summer as counter-programming to the blockbusters.