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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Saturday, November 05, 2022

entry arrow1:42 PM | Halfway Through Documentary Now! Season 4

Finally, an episode of Documentary Now! S4 that I’m really digging! I have loved the mockumentary series since it began in 2015, but I didn’t really the dig the first two instalments of this season, despite loving the original documentaries they were based on.

“Soldier of Illusion, Parts 1 and 2” [a riff on Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams, and Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man, Into the Abyss, and My Best Fiend] is ingenious enough in its juxtaposing a crazy story involving a German director shooting a documentary on the indigenous people of the Ural Mountains while simultaneously filming a sitcom pilot—but the original conceit, involving the mad logistics of Herzog filming the actual moving of an entire ship over steep, dangerous land from one river system to another in the Amazon for Fitzcarraldo proves even crazier. The ridiculousness of the riff basically pales in comparison. “Two Hairdressers in Bagglyport” [a riff on Philippa Lowthorpe’s Three Salons at the Seaside with bits of R. J. Cutler’s The September Issue thrown in] is more successful, and also more faithful to the original British documentary—but infusing it with Anna Wintour-style hijinks felt forced. The September Issue deserves a fuller riff than just being a source of a plot point. Doing it like this deprives us of a much-needed Documentary Now! take on Grace Coddington, which is a shame.

But I love “How They Throw Rocks,” a riff on Leon Gast’s When We Were Kings, the documentary on the legendary boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire. I love how they transposed boxing into an allegedly Welsh “sport” of brutal rock-throwing. They got the riffs just right, from Ali's bigger-than-life persona, to Ali’s “rope-a-dope” technique that brought down a stronger foe [riffed into this episode’s “turtling”].

I hope the rest of the season will be as irreverent, callback-y, and funny as this episode.

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