How do you respond to one-sided documentaries? Do you dismiss them for their lack of fair and balanced reporting? Do you celebrate the film if you agree with its agenda and denounce the film if you're against its position? Are you approving of bias only if it's upfront and/or personalized (a la Michael Moore)? And finally, where do you draw the line at accepting one-sidedness? Obviously any film against the Holocaust is okay. There's no other socially acceptable side to be on. But is everybody okay with a one-sided film against dolphin slaughter? How about one against the mass murder of electric cars?

These are all questions for which I'm curious how a general audience feels. I know how most critics respond to non-fiction films: subjectively enough that I can tell the politics and beliefs of the writer based on how he or she reviews them. Occasionally I'll know even before the reviews are out. At press screenings, critics tend to cheer and boo more during documentaries than fiction films. Footage of George W. Bush has especially elicited sneers from audiences at such screenings over the past few years.

Yet even with the critics who wear their ideologies on their sleeves there will always be a considerable preference for balanced documentaries, the sort that evenly lay out two sides of an issue, feature testimony from experts and significant parties representing both viewpoints and are at least seemingly nonpartisan or lacking in any agenda on the part of the filmmakers. This is especially welcome with hot button topics like abortion, which is why Tony Kaye's Lake of Fire was so well received. It's one of the most successfully apolitical documentaries ever constructed.
categories Columns, Cinematical