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Jehane Noujaim


The Great Hack (2019)
The Square (2013)
Startup.Com (2001)

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Reality: What a concept

Ah, reality. So malleable. I've seen a few documentaries and reality shows in my day, and I always enjoy watching how the filmmakers set about shaping "characters" and narratives from carefully chosen bits and pieces of footage, dialog and narration.

Take Susan Boyle, one of the hottest celebrities in the Western World since her appearance on BBC ITV's "Britain's Got Talent" last Saturday -- a performance that has now been seen by untold millions on YouTube. (One clip alone -- several are posted -- registers nearly 14 million views as I write this; a similar one of Paul Potts, the opera-singing mobile phone salesman from 2007, shows nearly 44 million views.)

If you haven't seen it yet, watch this version, which shows how Boyle's audition was set up for the television audience. (Is this show broadcast live, or edited later? How many cameras do they have in that auditorium? Watch how the reaction shots are inserted.) After making a joke about the one thing that's been missing from Glasgow is "talent," the hosts introduce the rather frumpy looking Boyle with comical music and a shot of her taking a big bite out of a sandwich. "Next up is a contestant who says she has what it takes to put Glasgow on the map," they say. The offscreen audience laughs. She's from West Lothian, 47 years old, unemployed but looking, never married ("Never been kissed," she says, "Shame -- but that's not an advert!").


Politics, celebs and movie critics

"You should learn to keep your opinions OUT of your reviews!" Every critic I know has received at least one letter like that from an indignant reader. Of course, it's an absurd proposition; critics are paid to express their opinions, and the good ones (who exercise what is known across all disciplines as "critical thinking") are also able to cite examples and employ sound reasoning to build an argument, showing you how and why they reached their verdict.