Over the last few years documentaries have found a small amount of mainstream acceptance, part of which comes from the fact that documentary filmmakers have been approaching their movies as entertaining narratives and not dry educational lectures. I keep seeing docs that I think would make for great narrative features (the latest was Crazy Love, a movie that probably would have actually worked better as a narrative), so I’m not that surprised to see some documentaries turning into fiction films.
Our Brand is Crisis is a documentary about how American style democracy may not be needed everywhere – it follows the 2002 Bolivian election, where Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada hired James Carville’s political consulting firm to help him win. They brought in the usual American style of campaigning, including smear tactics, and actually helped the candidate win by a tiny margin. But things took a turn for the worse in the months to come as Bolivia fell into a serious crisis.
The film is being remade by George Clooney’s Smokehouse Productions, where it’s set up as a possible directing or starring gig for The Cloon. The narrative version is being envisioned as a dark comedy.
Meanwhile, another documentary is being reborn as a feature – sort of. The Beauty Academy of Kabul followed a group of American women who went to Afghanistan to help out a fledgling post-Taliban beauty school, and one of the women wrote a book about her experience. That book, Kabul Beauty School, has now been optioned by Columbia. I saw the original film at the Tribeca Film Festival about three years back, and while it was interesting it was also sort of fluffy. The documentary felt suited to television, but the story itself can make a heckuva prestige chick flick.