A New Era of Documentary Film

Words by Naomi Jeffreys

A new era of Docmentary film has landed in glorious 3D. It seems, that the management behind pop stars such as Katy Perry, whose new film is out in cinemas now. The audience follows Katy both on stage and off. But, does this type of film have any meaning? Is there really any point to these kinds of films which are clearly a cash cow and is aimed at the ‘tween’ audience born out of films such as High School Musical and The Princess Diaries.

Perry’s new film has received mainly positive reviews, scoring a 76% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film allows avid Katy Perry fans to be able to see her backstage at her lavish concerts, but, perhaps what is gaining the most interest is seeing the inside look at what happened between Perry and Russell Brand.

Stephanie Merry, from the Washington Post has said: “As a piece of pro-Perry propaganda, the entertaining and disarmingly poignant movie from directors and reality television vets Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz is a startling success. Although there are moments when the filmmakers’ fingerprints are nearly visible on the manipulated putty of an audience, the scenes aren’t enough to break the fruit-flavored spell.”

A.O. Scott, The New York Times : ” ‘Part of Me’ will never be mistaken for ‘The Red Shoes’ (though Ms. Perry has some of those, as well as every other color), but her negotiation of the painfully competing demands of stardom and marriage is undeniably poignant.”

Clearly, unlike her predecessor, Justin Bieber, whose film, Never Say Never was a box office success, which had a budget of $13 million and grossed $98,441,954 wordwide. But which recieved largely mixed reviews from critics and a 64% average on Rotten Tomatoes. Perry’s willingness to share intimate parts of her life with her fans has therefore proved that she has a different take on this new kind of documentary.

Bieber’s film, Never Say Never had the same premise as Perry, he allowed the fans a closer look at him backstage and on stage. It follows Bieber ten days counting down to what is considered to be his biggest performance, that of August 31 2010 at Madison Square Garden, which sold out in 22 minutes.

These types of films have a very specific audience, the newly born ‘Tweens’, who were born out of squeaky clean Disney movies such as High School Musical and The Princess Diaries. We are encouraged to worship these people, to idolise them, whilst they make millions out of their dedicated fans.

They are hardly Michael Moore films, which have sharp wit, a clear political point and which are not glamorous at all. The Documentary film genre is often forgotten, perhaps because the audience is manipulated more than any other film or because it is depicting real life. There is always a meaning, a point to these films. Whether it is to uncover American gun crime, such as Moore’s Bowling for Columbine (2002) or simply make the audience aware of wider social and political issues.

Either way, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry have started a new kind of Documentary film, entirely different to that of Michael Moore, these are sugar coated documentaries, aimed at the ‘Tween’ audience, who are able to see in to the lives of their favourite pop stars. Evidently these are cash cows and I expect we will see a few more of these films in the near future.


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