Blog Mockumentary

Mockumentary: Between Reality and Fiction

The name comes from a mix of mock as ridiculous and as false, and documentary; the cinematographic genre that films themes of social, cultural or scientific interest through facts, situations and characters from reality with an informative or pedagogical purpose. Let’s see what it’s all about

Basically, it’s a fiction movie, in the structure of a documentary. As writers and directors, one of the funniest genres to dive into is undoubtedly the mockumentary. It’s employed in film and television. Sometimes as a complete movie or as part of a skit.

It’s often made with the intention of making fun of the viewer or a topic. It’s presented as a real work, but it’s produced as fiction, imitating the codes and conventions of documentary films. The essence of the genre is satire and parody. Furthermore, although it’s commonly included in the genre of comedy, is possible to find examples that can be considered dramatic.

Types of Mockumentary

Although a much broader typology can be elaborated, it’s still an underdeveloped genre in which a lot of ground remains unexplored. At the moment, it’s accepted that there are two main types of mockumentary, with very marked differences within them.

The first one consists of films that aim to make the viewer question the truth of what they are seeing. The second type is about movies that are born directly as a parody of reality. But it’s possible to mix them, there’s no need to be so rigid or restrict creativity.

Background of Mockumentary

On TV, there have been cases of mockumentaries that have caused a stir – and that made some relevant personalities make a fool out of themselves on social media by confirming as true facts information they gathered from these works of fiction.

In some cases, the fraud went very far, especially with some experiments carried out by enthusiastic producers of programs recognized for their seriousness, who had always addressed the reality from a journalistic point of view, and by having real personalities participating in the deception, the fictitious reconstructions of the subject matter have made many people believe them.

In 1909, an American physician named Frederick Cook said he had been to the North Pole one year earlier than Robert Peary, who was originally credited with this feat. To demonstrate the truth of his claim, Cook made a short film released in 1912, considered the first mockumentary in the history of cinema. And although it was more than clear that the production was a fake, Cook did it very seriously.

This isn’t an exclusive genre of cinema either, everyone agrees that  the original version of ‘The War of the Worlds’ carried out by Orson Welles in 1938 was part of the genre. A radiophonic production still considered the first great mockumentary.

The production of Welles was a criticism of the power of the media. Even today, more than 80 years after its transmission, there’s still something to think about. Probably today nobody would swallow that story, of course (wink!). Likewise, in our times of fake news and internet hoaxes, many people aren’t aware that most of what we see on television is manipulated in some way.