Short or Reality Series

Here’s something that just occurred to me while watching Cindy Meehl’s “Buck,” the documentary about a horse whisperer that won an audience award at Sundance and is now getting standing ovations at SXSW: some docs shouldn’t be features, but it’s sometimes hard to say if they should instead be a short or a TV series.

On the one hand, I really don’t think there’s enough of a story in “Buck” to play out near 90 minutes. It repeats itself a lot, particularly regarding its explicit metaphoric anti-abuse message. On the other hand, Buck Brannaman is such an amusing and likable character, and his on-the-road job is so episodic, that I could see his life further followed as a reality program.

I wonder how many other docs that seem ill-fit as features are the same, could go either other way.

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About Christopher Campbell
I am a blogger for Documentary Channel and Movies.com, where I write the Doc Talk column. I prefer real stories to fake ones. I tweet here: @thefilmcynic

One Response to Short or Reality Series

  1. jonkelland says:

    Putting aside the question of whether or not “some docs shouldn’t be features”, I don’t agree that BUCK would have worked as either a short or series. As you point out, BUCK is repetitive, though I might go so far as to say variations on a theme. I thought BUCK worked as a film, I think it would very quickly wear out its welcome as a series. I’d suggest that the variation in BUCK does more to emphasize his ethical life, but I’d probably agree that some material could have been cut. As a short, I think that the audience would come away with the simple message of humane treatment, but would probably not fully understand the charisma of Buck or the richness of his ethical living. The length here allows for a visceral connection that I believe is key to any good portrait documentary.

    I will agree that the film’s form is rather mundane, but as I wrote in a brief review, I think there is something interesting about how Buck is framed by Meehl, this something I’d have to revisit the film to figure out. Not only was I surprised that I liked the film as much as I did, but that it was one of two favorites coming out of (my limited) True/False screenings (along with the also troubled FOREIGN PARTS).

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