This issue contains a micro-interview, conducted by Melissa Goldstein, with Gary Hustwit. Hustwit made his directorial debut with the cult typography film Helvetica in 2007, and last year released Objectified, which examines the world of industrial design. He has also produced I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, an outstandingly candid film about the band Wilco; Moog, a documentary about electronic music pioneer Robert Moog; and Drive Well, Sleep Carefully, a chronicle of Death Cab For Cutie’s Spring 2004 Transatlanticism tour.
THE BELIEVER: Does documentary filmmaking have the power to change the world?
GARY HUSTWIT: I think the films that you would maybe point to as the ones that have “changed the world”—An Inconvenient Truth or something like that—I think those are actually the ones that haven’t done that. They’ve maybe solidified a group of people who already thought that way. I don’t think anybody walked into An Inconvenient Truth on the fence about global warming or an opinion completely opposite with the film and then walked out a changed person. A lot of the social or political documentaries, the way that they’re made and the approach that those films take, is really preaching to the converted. It’s not going to bring anybody in. You’re not going to go to Bill Maher’s Religulous as a devout Christian, you’re going to go in there and know what you’re going to get, and he delivers exactly what you expect. I think the documentaries that can change the world are the ones that aren’t overtly trying to change the world—the ones that are a pure and straightforward observation by the filmmaker. The documentaries that can be powerful are the ones that aren’t trying so overtly to be powerful. The minute you try to put these big causes onto films I think is when you’ve already sort of limited yourself as a filmmaker and the film, too. It’s so personal as a viewer, when you watch a great film—documentary or otherwise—the things that change your life are not big things, they’re these little thought-provoking moments.
We hope you enjoy this excerpt.
To read the full piece, please purchase a copy of the magazine from The McSweeney’s Store.