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A sister to the Documentary Episode, the "Faux To" Guide, the Mockumentary and the Found Footage Films, the Faux Documentary borrows trappings from traditional documentaries - shaky cameras, narrators, on-camera interviews with characters - but doesn't commit fully to a documentary format. While the Documentary Episode makes a point of acknowledging the presence of the camera crew, the Faux Documentary rarely does so, allowing for scenes in which the characters are by themselves or are doing things they would not do if there was an actual camera crew around. Where the camera crew is acknowledged, it is usually for the sake of a brief joke.

This gets around some of the problems encountered during the filming of This Is Spinal Tap, where entire scenes had to be cut from the film because the director and writers didn't believe that the characters or their lawyers would allow them to be shown (e.g. the sequence where the band get their chauffeur stoned).

Not to be confused with a real Documentary. See also Camera Abuse.

Examples of Faux Documentary include:


  • Pom Poko, a Studio Ghibli film based on tanuki of Japanese folklore is presented in a faux documentary format covering the lives of the New Tama Hills raccoon dogs in response to the development of modern Tokyo.


  • Film: Ken Loach's early films, most notably Kes, utilised a Faux Documentary format, including improvised scenes and structuring shots as if in a "fly-on-the-wall" documentary.
  • One of the bonus features on the DVD of the 2000 X-Men movie is a "making-of" segment framed as "The Mutant Watch", "XNN" news coverage of the Senate hearings on Senator Kelly's proposed "Mutant Registration Act".
  • United 93 was filmed as though it were a documentary. The production staff went so far as to isolate each of the three major sets and run each one in real-time as though the events of the day were really unfolding in front of two wandering steadicams.
  • Take the Money and Run had some documentary trappings, including the narrator interviewing Virgil's parents.
  • Christian Bale's storyline in the surrealist Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There is done in the form of a documentary.
  • Le Bal des actrices by Maïwenn has a Faux Documentary within the film itself. The premise of the film is that the director, Maïwenn, is shooting a documentary about actual French actresses (all playing characters bearing their own name), but the whole thing is given away almost immediately: not only are some early sequences slightly and hilariously over the top, but we actually see Maïwenn filming, struggling to get her film financed, and her private life suffering as a result of her making the film.
  • I'm Still Here, a documentary about Joaquin Phoenix's years-long Creator Breakdown and foray into hip-hop music was revealed as a fake a few days (and many poor reviews) after its premier, and that everyone, including David Letterman, was in on it.
  • The 2007 film Chop Shop is shot in this manner.


  • House of Leaves manages to do this in novel form. The central text is an analysis/recap of a documentary about some very unbelievable events. However, within the world of the fictional editor, the documentary doesn't even exist.
  • Come on! Nobody's mentioned Dragonology?

Live Action TV

  • Variant: Both Firefly and the revamped Battlestar Galactica were deliberately filmed in Shaky Cam style to evoke a "documentary" feel. The effect of combining fairly good-looking CGI with live action footage that is constantly moving, on a TV budget - for example any scenes of "digital paper" or many computer consoles in Firefly especially the episode Serenity, Part 1, which features the effect everywhere from the computer screen at the Persephone docks to the police bulletin Badger waves at the crew - was actually pioneered by Firefly back in 2002, with Joss Whedon even going so far as to seek out old camera lenses to get lens flares in the footage. BSG's producers have noted that they liked the idea and (given the show's decent Special Effects budget) decided to copy it, though they use it with far, far less subtlety. Most Firefly viewers seem to never really notice it until it's pointed out and the colors were generally as rich as other one-camera shows like The West Wing, but in BSG it's immediately noticeable from the deliberate "zooming and refocusing" effects and much starker lighting. Whether this is to the latter series' detriment or not seems to be a matter of opinion, with some complaining about the jerkiness and others praising it for the "gritty" feel it gives the show.
  • Arrested Development has a Narrator, an occasionally visible film crew, uses fake 'archive footage' and sometimes Fourth Wall-breaking jokes where the presence of a camera is made clear to the audience. However, characters never acknowledge the presence of the cameras, everything has a smooth, filmic quality and there are several scenes in which a documentary-style crew would not be allowed to be present.
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm began as a one-off fake documentary. The spin-off series ditched pretty much everything except for the occasionally shaky, documentary-esque camera and ad-libbed scripts.
  • I'm Alan Partridge was shot exactly like a documentary, but had a laugh track, didn't acknowledge the camera crew and had several scenes in which the camera crew would usually be excluded. An in-character commentary on the DVD says that half of it was a 'documentary', but the rest was filmed using actors when the 'real' people were unavailable.
  • Jack & Bobby was a one-season 2004 show that was interspersed with talking-head interviews pontificating on the events of the series and their repercussions. That's because the show was about two brothers, one of which became President. It wasn't the Kennedys, sadly; it was about some Twenty Minutes Into the Future president.
  • Frontline has hand-held footage, with grainy-looking picture quality. It puports to be exactly what happens behind the scenes of a news programme. The presence of a camera crew is never acknowledged, however.
  • Trailer Park Boys post-season 2 feels this way most of the time. In the first two seasons, all new characters would question the camera crew following the boys around (naturally, given that most of these characters are committing mis-deeds while asking the question), but in the later seasons they're hardly ever brought up.
  • Taken begins with a dogfight during World War II. The CG artists deliberately tried to evoke a documentary feel, with one guy saying he would take it as a compliment if someone pointed this out to him.
  • Kath and Kim
  • Modern Family has a shaky camera and frequent interviews with characters, but there's no indication that there's actually anything being filmed in the show.

Professional Wrestling

  • Strangely enough, this seems to be the format for most "backstage" segments during many Professional Wrestling programs, which has led to many fan jokes about the "ninja cameraman".