Hot Docs 2016
Sheffield, BAMcinemaFest, Fantastic Fest, Hamptons, Denver, AFI Fest, Sidewalk
A family’s home movies reveal the dark side of consumer culture.
As Fleischer-Camp’s film opens, audiences are thrown into the prosaic world of a typical American nuclear family – dad, mom, and preteen son and daughter – through shaky, quickly-cut home movie scenes, complete with an ever-present timestamp. A creeping feeling soon descends over the footage, as suggestions of family financial troubles emerge, first leading to an impromptu yard sale and then to decidedly more desperate measures signaled by the project’s title. Camp – and particularly his editor, Jonathan Rippon – craft an unsettling tale, but, to spoil the conceit that is itself also suggested as a dual meaning from its title, the film is not a documentary. The filmmakers instead took hours of raw documentary material – the family’s home movies – and meticulously repurposed them, pulling from some other sources in a few cases – to create a wholly fictional story. Audiences utterly ignorant of the project’s origins could unquestioningly buy into what’s shown onscreen, though inconsistencies or blatant errors – such as an errant timestamp noting that Hurricane Sandy taking place in September instead of November – might provide more attentive viewers with clues that everything is not what it seems. The clever hybrid calls into question ideas of documentary truth and the seductive power of narrative, while also serving up an extreme, but not utterly inconceivable portrait of consumerism run amok.