Imagine a film adaptation of a novel that leaves out so many details, including the story's conclusion, that viewers are forced -- or at least encouraged -- to go back and read the book to find out what all they've missed. I feel like this happens often with documentary films, and it's one of the many problems with non-fiction cinema that I'll be looking at on a weekly basis here at Doc Talk.
One of the frontrunners for this year's Oscar for Best Documentary Feature is Robert Kenner's Food Inc., a chapter-by-chapter expose of the many ills of the modern American food industry. It's not a perfect film, and many critics know this, but the majority ignored the problems with its storytelling, editing and narrowness of testimony because they favored the cause.
David Edelstein at New York magazine admitted he gave up on trying to review the film, choosing instead to simply "exhort you" to see it. Roger Ebert also acknowledged that his rave wasn't so much a movie review as a relaying of things he learned from Food Inc. The problem with this is that the film already does the same thing; it merely delivers some information that some other people found out about the business of food and hopes you'll be scared by these facts.