Nonfiction films have been growing in popularity of late, but this season's batch is joining a chorus of already raised voices. Some observers see a renewed interest in political ferment in today's media, extending from bestselling books on the Bush administration by journalist Bob Woodward, to the strongest flood of protest songs in 30 years, to the rise of talk radio on both the left and the right.
"Popular culture is embracing politics in a way it hasn't since the 1960s," says Joel Bakan, cowriter of "The Corporation" and author of the Free Press book on which that movie is based.
More of what one newspaper labels "docs populi" are imminent. (As with most films labeled "documentaries," filmmaker objectivity isn't necessarily implied.)
"The Yes Men" depicts pranks by an anticorporate group. "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster" touches on the rock band's lawsuit against Napster musicsharing. "Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train" profiles a renowned historian and peace activist. "Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War," opening in theaters in August, has already sold a reported 100,000 video copies on the Web.
Some of these movies are debuting at the annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival, celebrating its 15th anniversary of political programming this month at the Lincoln Center here. And expect even more activist fare in cinemas if any of these films approaches the unprecedented $21.5 million take of Moore's 2002 movie, "Bowling for Columbine," or the $6.2 million gross of current release "Super Size Me," in which a filmmaker eats nothing but McDonald's products for a month to see if his McDiet will make him fatter. (It does.)
Perhaps it's not surprising that there's a hunger for movies with a strong point of view, given the huge sales of books by Ann Coulter, Al Franken, and other politically passionate pundits. Michael Moore's most recent book, "Stupid White Men," has been a bestseller for more than two years.