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Which Documentaries Could Be Remade as Narrative Films?

by Christopher Campbell
January 24, 2012 4:02 PM
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Crime After Crime

It doesn’t happen that often, but sometimes documentaries are adapted, or remade, into narrative films. That’s what we call the fully dramatized versions anyway, ignoring the fact that docs have narratives too. Past examples include Werner Herzog’s "Little Dieter Needs to Fly," which the filmmaker turned into Rescue Dawn, Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s "Party Monster," which the duo made into a film of the same name, and I include biographies like Rob Epstein’s "The Times of Harvey Milk" even though it wasn’t directly related to Gus Van Sant’s biopic Milk.

This is a subject I’ve written about multiple times before, but it always comes up because so many docs are announced as getting remakes that haven’t (yet, if ever) seen the light of day. Titles that have been optioned or even bought include "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters," "Racing Dreams," "The Bengali Detective," "Page One: Inside the New York Times," Hands on a Hard Body," "Crazy Love," "Young @ Heart," "Murderball," "Bra Boys," "Chicago 10" and the "Paradise Lost" films.

Now we can add two more to the bunch, through separate bits of news out of Sundance. Current competition title "Indie Game: The Movie," which is about independent video game designers, has been picked up by HBO and producer Scott Rudin as inspiration for a fictional comedy series. This is similar to a deal HBO made at last year’s fest to adapt "Knuckle" into a series.

Continue reading the discussion at the Documentary Channel Blog

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More: Documentary, Discussions, Sundance 2012


  • Bruce Spencer | January 25, 2012 11:13 PMReply


    An award-winning documentary by Jenny Abel and Jeff Hockett

    In 2005, after winning First Grand Prize at the Slamdance Film Festival, and four years later in 2009, a similar honor at the Fargo Film Festival, “Abel Raises Cain,” a comedy feature, has defied the laws of Hollywood’s jungle. Its “legs” remain unstoppable.

    During 2011, “Abel Raises Cain” completed a four-thousand mile tour of southern colleges and museums in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Audiences of all ages were mesmerized, reacting with sustained laughter and standing ovations.

    At South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, SC, the sold out screening had to be held in their spacious planetarium and projected on the ceiling. It was somewhat eerie to observe a full house of patrons laughing and applauding, while lounging on the horizontal easy chairs designed for overhead viewing.

    In New Orleans, to accommodate an overflow crowd, “Abel Raises Cain” was also projected on the side of a three-story building next door. Even traffic halted to view the movie. At its conclusion, horns honked and a marching band appeared, playing “The Saints,” adding to the excitement of cheers, shouts and applause. What a tribute for filmmakers Jenny Abel and Jeff Hockett!

    After each screening, Jenny took the stage to field questions from the elated audiences. They all registered their surprise and delight at this first view of the young filmmaker who deftly handled queries. When asked where her father was, that was his cue to appear from backstage for standing ovations and applause. Alan Abel was a secret guest and he joined his daughter for more banter with audiences.

    During its past and present screenings, “Abel Raises Cain” has won major awards at film festivals in Canada, England, Denmark, Germany and France. Copies of the DVD, with a commentary and extra features, are available from its website:

    Alan Abel will be featured in his off-Broadway in 2012, “Jester At Large,” along with fellow pranksters Paul Hiatt and Frank Murgalo. Details are to be announced soon on his website:

    # # # #

  • mp | January 25, 2012 4:47 PMReply

    Project Nim.
    Both with strong characters and compelling atmosphere and story "arcs."

  • Todd Ford | January 25, 2012 4:12 PMReply

    Not to be picky, but almost all documentaries are narrative films.

  • michelle | January 25, 2012 3:39 PMReply

    Sherman's March by Ross McElwee is being developed into a feature narrative. And his only non-negotiable in the contract was to allow him to document them making a film about his documentary. They agreed. I can't wait.

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