I'm a big documentary buff so I'm going to be as subtle and understated as possible in humbly requesting that you STOP APPEARING IN YOUR FUCKING MOVIES. Seriously. You're getting on my goddamned nerves. You're not cute. You're not funny. You're not Michael Moore or Nick Broomfield (and if you are your shtick's getting oldl) That awkward footage totally sticking it to some hapless security guard or clueless middle management type isn't going to magically transform your documentary about irregularities in the granting of soybean subsidies into "Fahrenheit 911".
I'm talking to you, Aaron Russo. And you, dude from "Gunner Palace" who thinks he's Martin Sheen in "Apocalypse Now". And you, Haskell and Mark Wexler. And you Danny Schechter. And You, Marshall Curry (though you actually have a legitimate reason to be in your film).
But mainly I'm talking about Kirby Dick, who ruined a perfectly amusing documentary about the MPAA and the ratings board by turning the focus onto himself and his own pointless Quixotic crusade by hiring a detective to uncover the identities of ratings board members and filming "re-enactments" (cause nothing screams "classy documentary" like re-enactments) of his oh-so-riveting conversations with Ratings board baddies.
I yield to no one in my class resentments but I personally don't give a fuck if ratings board members drive nice cars or live in big houses. Dick's onscreen phone calls and detective-wrangling do nothing but distract from the film's legitimate criticisms of the ratings board. And while I concur that the MPAA is the major studio's bitch, stigmatizes certain kinds of films (gay, indie, low-budget) over others and should be more transparent Dick seems to be attacking his subject with a sense of outrage and urgency wildly disproportionate to its real-world significance. Jack Valenti isn't Pol Pot and the MPAA isn't the Khmer Rouge no matter how demonizes each.
I know, the world isn't fair. Daddy was too busy snorting Bolivian marching powder with Jane Fonda and the Black Panthers to take you to your little league game and tell you what a special little man you are ("Tell Them Who You Are") and now you've gotten back at him by making a film about how he's worse than Hitler. Those big meanies at the IRS want to take away your money ("America: Freedom To Fascism") just cause you owe millions in back taxes. Those nasty MPAA people gave your movie an NC-17 just because of its heavy sexual content ("This Film Is Not Yet Rated"). The studios be oppressing the little man ("Who Needs Sleep"). But your presence in your documentary serves as an annoying distraction that detracts from the force of your argument.
Your onscreen presence doesn't comment insightfully on the innately subjective nature of filmmaking or the impossibility of subjectivity. It just betrays your narcissism and need for attention. Don't get me wrong: I think there definitely is a place in the world for personal documentary filmmaking. Hell I loved "Tarnation" and dig Ross McElwee. But unless there is an absolutely vital, essential reason for you to be in front of the camera you're better off behind it. If you want to ham it up for the camera be an actor. If you want to make important non-fiction about relevant subjects be a fucking documentarian. Don't get the two confused.
Of course there are exceptions. Werner Herzog can appear in any damn documentary he feels like and often does. And I definitely think there's a place in the world for the Moores and Broomfields and Spurlocks. But for the most part documentarians appearing in their films are doing themselves, their films and their subjects a major disservice.
What do you guys think? Am I blowing this out of proportion? Why do you think so many documentarians are appearing in their own movies? Anybody wanna defend the practice? Is it about money (those Michael Moore movies sure do make a whole lot of scrilla)? Fame? Ego? Or is at all about exposing the truth, man?