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In the final years of the twentieth century rare is the documentary that attracts mass audiences or attention At a time when people get to declare their desire for entertainment in a multitude of media the fate of the non-fiction film that attempts to tell a true story is not a happy one But there are documentaries that succeed at the box office and even achieve status as popular fare mostly either by appealing to a specialized audience of sufficient size or taking a point of view that mass audiences can relate to comfortably and easily A superb example of the former is The Sorrow and the Pity 1970 Marcel Ophuls 4-hour account of life in France during World War II under the Nazi and collaborationist regimes which not only became a major international hit but was so familiar to filmgoers that Woody Allen was able to use it as a familiar reference point in his most successful picture Annie Hall The Sorrow And The Pity is the movie that Allens Alvy and Diane Keatons Annie are planning on seeing The best recent example of the latter is Michael Moores 1987 hit Roger Me a film depicting Moores efforts to confront General Motors chairman Roger Smith about the policies that led to the loss of 40000 jobs in Flint Michigan The documentary has its roots in the film-going habits of the early twentieth century when audiences were willing to look at almost any decently made and often not-so-decently-made visual material in movie theaters In the days before television theaters were expected to show not just feature films but a wide range of diversions for their patrons sometimes including live entertainment as well as movies During the 1890s the vast majority of films shown in theaters were of a non-fiction nature covering actual events By the beginning of the twentieth century producers had begun presenting short movies depicting or re-creating events essentially fragmentary newsreels and
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