Filmmakers like Nick Broomfield and his colleague, Michael Moore, often get criticized for placing themselves in the center of their own action. But I would argue that in Broomfield’s case it is an essential ingredient in making the films as good as they are. As opposed to Moore, whose growing celebrity has made it more difficult for him to be an effective avatar for his audiences, Broomfield has remained under the radar. He’s not a celebrity filmmaker though many in the documentary community may argue otherwise. Therefore he’s more of the everyman.
Broomfield is also the quintessential fish out of water. Here is an educated British gentleman (albeit usually clad in jeans and t-shirt) interviewing prostitutes, drug-addled rock stars, shady rapper impresarios, tough folks from the ‘hood, you name it. And through it all, Broomfield stumbles along, keeping his cool, but never wavering from knocking on the doors, entering into the questionable buildings, asking the tough questions. It’s that contrast that sticks; dramatically astonishing and always funny, often in the same moment.
Listen to Filmwax Radio: Nick Broomfield
With the exception of Battle for Haditha, a re-enactment dramatic feature, all the other films that recently debuted on Fandor—including Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam, Fetishes, Kurt and Courtney, and Biggie and Tupac—all include Broomfield confronting his subjects while often holding a boom mic (he usually works in a crew of two or three). And while there have been a few less successful films in his oeuvre, the ones that are currently streaming on Fandor are all unquestionably arresting and thoroughly entertaining. And it’s Nick Broomfield’s presence in the middle of the action that makes them as such. His latest documentary, Tales of the Grim Sleeper which is having its broadcast premiere on HBO on April 27th, is no exception. I think the critics will agree its his strongest work yet, and is the result of an angrier filmmaker. You may not see it in Broomfield’s face (he’s in most every scene), but it’s there in the film’s message. My recommendation: check out all these older titles in anticipation of the new film.