Can First Person Documentaries Be Re-Invented Please?

On the one hand, why am I picking on small, independently-produced labors of love, almost all of which I insist on seeing either in the theater or the day they come out on Netflix? On the other, the personal journey/memoir documentary format is in dire need of reinvention. Whether it’s Adrien Grenier looking for his birth father, some guy trying to get a date with Drew Barrymore, or Morgan Spurlock doing anything, they’re all the same, from the intense navel-gazing “plots,” to the inflection and exact wording of the “I was always different and special, so I decided to go on a journey to find out what’s in my belly button” opening narration. I’m not saying that there aren’t great examples from this genre (Just Melvin, Just Evil is one), but why so many of these movies are exactly alike? Is it because the wrong people are finding themselves with a lot of money lying around and nothing else to do but make a documentary about, literally, Googling themselves? Is the world really begging to follow another upper middle class urbanite on a journey of self-discovery?

Via Very Short List, a new documentary series called Flying: Confessions Of A Free Woman will begin airing on The Sundance Channel on Monday night.

Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman (on the Sundance Channel beginning 5/5) is a six-hour DIY miniseries that mixes Fox’s own up-front video diary (she’s often literally naked, struggling with the choice between two lovers) with the enlightening onscreen confessions she elicits from women in 17 countries.

I feel a little shitty complaining about this one when there are clearly bigger fish to fry, and the parts of the series exploring women in other countries have the potential to be enlightening if (and only if) filmmaker/subject Jennifer Fox manages to focus on them and not herself, which seems unlikely from this trailer:

Even after getting past the irksome narration, why couldn’t someone have explored these worthy topics from the perspective of a curious outsider? I’ll be tuning in Monday night in hopes that the trailer is misleading, but if we can learn anything from successful documentaries, it’s that Errol Morris will never make an entire movie as an excuse to show his sex tapes.