The Alternate Realities Of Hot Documentaries

Three nonfiction films are attracting lots of attention this summer--maybe for the wrong reason

A documentary is an arrangement (or, if it includes historical footage, a rearrangement) of nonfictional film, structured to support the pre-existing ideas of the filmmaker. Only the terminally stupid or the childishly innocent imagine that anyone making a documentary film aspires to objective truth.

A convenient example is Bowling for Columbine, which won a documentary Academy Award this year and, more important, has grossed an unprecedented $21 million in theaters. Its ostensible subject is America's murderous gun culture. Its real subject, of course, is the ravenous ego of its director-star, Michael Moore. Everything--including accuracy and nuance--is subordinated to the presentation of...

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