Most of the most compelling documentaries of the previous a number of years, from Nathan Fielder’s HBO mini-series “The Rehearsal” to Kirsten Johnson’s self-reflexive characteristic “Cameraperson,” actively interact with the ethics of documentary filmmaking, posing tough questions on participation, consent and the accountability of the artist to the themes of their artwork. These tasks differ from “Topic,” Jennifer Tiexiera and Camilla Corridor’s movie about documentary ethics, in that their questions are posed by the filmmaking itself, threaded artfully into the documentary kind. “Topic” simply speaks the questions out loud, turning them into reductive fodder for speaking heads.
Tiexiera and Corridor have assembled a sort of “Avengers” of nonfiction cinema right here, because the members in a number of high-profile docs mirror on the method of getting had their lives laid naked on movie. Their experiences vary from a sort of wistful delight (Arthur Agee, of “Hoop Goals,” seems to be again on the reminiscence fondly) to obviously painful disillusionment (Margaret Ratliff, of “The Staircase,” makes a persuasive case that the film virtually ruined her life), and their testimony normally underscores a broader dilemma across the ideas of storytelling and the character of fact. Producers and critics are additionally available to expound on these matters in a cursory, surface-level manner.
“Topic” is at its clearest when interrogating the fabric circumstances of documentary filmmaking, as throughout a section about whether or not the themes of nonfiction movies have the best to be paid for his or her participation; it feels slipperier when glossing problems with variety and illustration, utilizing buzzy phrases like “decolonize documentaries” instead of mental heavy lifting. And at no level do Tiexiera or Corridor cope with their very own complicity in any of this: They’re, in spite of everything, making a documentary, and we get no sense of how they may reply the questions they pose to different documentarians. Maybe we’d like one other documentary to discover the making of this one.
Not rated. Operating time: 1 hour 37 minutes. In theaters.