Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Is it about the film or it's trailer?

Last night an anonymous commenter on my blog posted this comment in response to my post yesterday questioning whether "Superman" is an appropriate metaphor for school reform:
Wow. Do your research. The film is not funded by the Heritage Foundation. When you see the film you will learn that Superman comes from a quote by Geoffrey Canada. The metaphor for the film is the lottery for kids to get into great schools. The fact that we place kids futures to chance is completely unacceptable.
You can read my post and my response to that comment here. This comment's phrase, "when you see the film you will learn," and my own statement in my post that I would, "hold off judgment until I see the film," got me thinking this morning about whether either phrase is rooted in proper thinking. Conventionally we would say it is important to hold out judgment until we see that which we are critiquing but is it really the film that is the real message here that needs critiquing or is it the trailer and other marketing tools? I bet a very small fraction of the people who see the trailer of a documentary actually go see the film but they do see and hear what is in the trailer. Therefore, if a documentary film does have a political agenda it's message will be more sharply defined in that trailer. In the case of Waiting for Superman that message is that our school system sucks (blame the teachers), we need to improve reading and math scores (narrow the curriculum so we can demand complacency), economic despair is the result of damage schools do (not Wall Street or crooked politicians), and lottery schools (charters) are the only "great schools" for poor kids (because they serve corporate interests).

Once the trailer has been seen by many many people it doesn't matter if anyone goes to see it in the theater or matter whether the actual documentary in its full-length presents an accurate and unbiased account of it's subject. Once the trailer has been distributed the film has done it's job for it's financiers.

1 comment:

Mrs. Tenkely said...

I have to say, I am looking forward to seeing this film and seeing how they tell the story (apart from the trailer). But I agree with you, for the majority of people the trailer is all that they will see and it tells a story of it's own. It has done the job it was set out to do (which is not necessarily to reflect the message of the film.)