Cinema is a medium that is, by nature, based around deception. Deception plays a role of central importance , as far as the storytelling mechanisms of cinema go. Many think this is because cinema has the most potential when it comes to using deception as a storytelling tactic. Shortly after its inception, film-making’s early innovators would discover just how effective this technique really was when it came to manipulating audiences.
This would be particularly evident in the genius of George Melies, who was pioneer of early special effects. His films were essentially his way of performing mind-blowing magic in a totally new way, as far back as the late 1800′s. Since then there have been all sorts of films that have focused on one part or another of the film-making process. The bulk of these films provide us with some sort of inside information about a behind-the-scenes aspect of the industry- which most of us are not usually exposed and therefore privy to. Others, though, have exaggerated or taken “artistic liberties” with certain aspects of the industry or just straight-up lied about their origins. A few of these have made today’s list.
But it wasn’t really until the dawn of the documentary that the truly deceptive potential of cinema would be unlocked and exploited to the fullest extent. Since the 1920′s, documentaries have been considered, by the general public, to purport facts and perpetuate truths in an authoritative manner…with viewers having been conditioned to accept this, often uncritically. This is known as the “expository” model. Realizing an opportunity to employ their bag of tricks had arisen, filmmakers of all kinds have been coming up with creative ways to exploit our quickness to accept what we see and here on the screen… just because the way it is shot.
Good thing we have film studies majors and media analysts from around the world picking over the truths behind the lies of these types of films. Thanks to them we are now in-the-know about at least some of the ways in which we have been duped. Now, we are even starting to see films that confront these issues comically- knowing we now know how we were being deceived, and playing off that for fun and reflection. The following films have all lied about the nature of film-making in one way or another. And now…on with the list…enjoy!!!
Honourable Mention: This Is Not A Film (Mojtaba Mirtahmasb & Jafar Panahi, 2011)
Jafar Panahi is one of Iran’s most renown directors. He is responsible for internationally acclaimed films like The White Balloon, Crimson Gold and Offside. On March 1, 2010 he was arrested by Iranian authorities, for supposedly attempting to make a documentary on unrest which had broken out after President Ahmadinejad’s disputed 2009 election victory.
He was imprisoned with a sentence of 6 years, but- after a massive outcry from the international community- he was released on bail, though still remained under house arrest and banned from making films, writing screenplays and giving international interviews for 20 years. Despite the repression he faced from an authoritarian regime, Panahi would defy this attempted censorship, employing the help of his friend Mojtaba Mirtahmasb. Together the two men would film Panahi from the confines of his home in Iran as he discusses the film he would be making if he wasn’t banned from making films.
The document was apparently smuggled out of Iran on a flash drive that was hidden inside a cake, where it was then shown at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. Pretty ballsy stuff.
But when it comes down to it- the overcoming of all odds aside- despite it’s given title, This Is Not A Film, is still effectively a film.
Panahi has since released a similar such film called Closed Curtain (you can catch it at TIFF this year), while still under house arrest and the same sanctions.
This article was first posted on August 24, 2013