Unfortunately, socumentary films aren't always the first port-of-call for investors looking to offload some excess cash. Getting factual films financed is like washing underwear – it's got to be done, but no one likes doing it.
The programme at this year's Melbourne Film Festival seems to indicate that the producers of the world's documentaries have stumbled onto a new philosophy – fame is the name of the game. It seems like a good idea – why struggle to get your film about the red ant made when a red dress means money in the bank (Valentino: The Last Emperor)? Or why bash your head trying to fund your doco on boxes when you can tell the story of a boxer bashing heads (Tyson)?
The subjects of a big chunk of this years MIFF documentaries are already famous and they are the focus of films that look very well-financed.
One-time pimp to the stars, Heidi Fleiss, is back, setting up an all male whorehouse for the women of Crystal, Nevada, as chronicled in the HBO-produced Heidi Fleiss: The Would-be Madam of Crystal. Sex, drugs, botox, gigolos, tumbleweeds – who wouldn't put cash into that film? And Maradona By Kusturica candidly explores the man at the end of the arm of the 'Hand of God'. Both films not only contain studs (think about it...) but both also have a huge ingrained want-to-see factor based on the sordid, spectacular, sad lives of the subject. That's money well-spent in the world of film-financing.
Some of the documentary subjects are almost famous – names you might see in the back half of the front section of the Herald or The Age, or on World News Australia. Pavel Koutecky's Citizen Havel, (or 'Zer Vest Ving'), gets inside the life of the Czech Republic's first president, Vaclav Havel. His achievements and instant place in political history are surely worthy of an investor's confidence and cash. But no risks can be taken in the current climate, so cameos from Bill Clinton and Mick Jagger must've helped to incentivise the moneymen.
As the insidious cult of fame spreads, can we expect that the names and faces of phosphorous starlets, burning brightly and quickly, and aging curiosities whose monikers once meant something, will feature more prominently in the MIFF's of tomorrow – Citizen Montag: The Other Heidi, perhaps? Madonna By Maradona, maybe?