One thing I began to notice last year is that many documentaries are a bit too long. I think some of this has to do with the desire to be sold as a “true” feature length film, although in this day when VOD, online streams and TV formatting overshadow theatrical for nonfiction distribution and viewership, I don’t know why going 90 minutes and above seems favorable to filmmakers when the content just isn’t there. One of the best docs of last year, according to many doc critics and fans (including myself) is Jarred Alterman’s “Convento,” which comes in at a mere 50 minutes. We need more of this.
And a place you’ll find more of this immedately is the 2012 Slamdance Film Festival, the increasingly necessary event that coincides with and provides alternatives to Sundance, and which has debuted a number of great docs in recent years, such as “Dear Zachary: A Letter to A Son About His Father,” “Mad Hot Ballroom,” “American Hardcore,” “The King of Kong: A Firstful of Quarters” and last year’s “Superheroes.” Most of these are in the 90-minute range, but the one that is arguably the most popular and probably the most seen, King of Kong, is only 79 minutes.
This year I’ve seen most of the titles in the Slamdance Documentary Competition and so far my favorite is the shortest of all, although I don’t favor it because of its running time. James Stenson’s “Kelly” is under an hour and still sufficiently exposes us to the life and world of a transgender teen prostitute. It is almost completely dependent on the fact that the eponymous subject is astonishingly compelling and candid. Kelly is the sort of documentary character that becomes a star through little more than straight interview material. And Stenson knows precisely how to capture, present and sell her physical beauty and blunt personality (and meth use) to an audience.
Continue reading this post at the Documentary Channel Blog.