In these days of increasingly formulaic factual television, it’s refreshing to know that there is one director who when he sets out on a shoot, has no idea of the film he will eventually make. For over thirty years Nick Broomfield has been documenting the social and institutional life of Britain and America in his own particular style, a style now much imitated by, amongst others, Michael Moore. Broomfield’s approach is a creative amalgam of careful research and mad contingency. He spends weeks living with his subject, and what he captures on film is rarely straightforward. He usually hits a crisis which threatens to sabotage the whole project. Somehow, he stumbles on; and the documentary that results will be by turns chaotic, funny, perceptive and moving.
Broomfield’s methods raise important questions about the nature and ethics of documentary. His work aims to ‘make a difference’ and is, therefore, governed by a point of view. What, then, is the truth he is depicting? Are his subjects treated fairly? Above all, how does his own appearance in a