Back in the 1930s, film documentary was defined by the high-minded John Grierson as ‘the creative interpretation of reality’. Today’s ubiquitous reality television shows have their roots in that idealistic movement, but before we agree to deplore the decline of a once-proud genre, we should look back fifty years to the young John Schlesinger’s directorial debut, Terminus (1961), because that’s when things first went off the rails. Several shots in this short film were staged for the camera, including a sequence showing a weeping five-year-old boy named Matthew Perry, who had been deliberately abandoned on a crowded Waterloo concourse by his mother, an actress relative of the director. This nasty moment in movie history has now been forgotten (at least, one hopes, by Matthew), but an ethical line had been crossed and a contract with the audience broken. In Terminus we were also shown actors masquerading as real people. Fifty years later, where are we?
This is from the publisher’s blurb for Living Life the Essex Way:
At the start of 2010 Sam Faiers was a normal 19-year-old girl from Brentwood: she was working in a local bank, plotting a glamour modelling career and planning what outfit to wear to Sugar Hut. Then the first episode of