F for Fake
Films That Inspire Me
morgan-neville

Morgan Neville

Director

Some people think that documentaries are merely "captured" and that taste should take a back seat. For anybody who makes movies, we know that our own influences filter into every decision we make. This is a good thing.  

While many documentaries have had a big influence on me, I find that I get just as much inspiration from fiction movies—sometimes even bad ones.  We are all just telling stories with characters. Here are but a handful of films that have meant a lot to me as a filmmaker. 

1

All the President's Men

1976

WHERE TO WATCH

There is a debate in the documentary community as to whether we should be considered “journalists.” I come down firmly on the side of “Yes!” That has got to be due in part to this film, which inspired me as a high school student to go into journalism. Doing research never looked so exciting. The film is expertly crafted top to bottom—from the formally gritty camera work, to the rhythm-perfect editing. More than anything, it’s a film that respects its viewer’s intelligence. I go back to it again and again for inspiration.

WHERE TO WATCH
All the President's Men
1976
138 Mins | PG
Reporters (Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman) link Watergate to the White House.


2

When We Were Kings

1996

I saw this documentary about a Muhammad Ali-George Forman heavyweight boxing bout when it came out in 1996. I was working on my first documentary at the time and this film felt like a magic trick to me. I had to see it again to unravel how the trick was performed. Ostensibly a story about a fight—the legendary “Rumble in the Jungle”—the film instead transforms into a narrative soup of funk music, African-nationalism, and a moment that changes these fighter’s lives. It also doesn’t hurt to have color commentary from Norman Mailer, George Plimpton, and Spike Lee.

WHERE TO WATCH
When We Were Kings
1996
84 Mins | PG
Filmmaker Leon Gast chronicles the 1974 Muhammad Ali/George Foreman championship bout in Zaire.


3

F for Fake

WHERE TO WATCH

Orson Welles’ first documentary is a master class on letting your limitations inspire you. Welles is having so much fun spinning the story about a lie within a lie within a lie, that you can’t help but be taken in by it. Ostensibly a film about art forgery, it’s really an excuse for Welles to make his first and only comedy, and a film about himself. When I came to make my film about Welles, “They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead,” I looked to “Fake” like the sacred text and found new invention and wisdom there with each reading.

WHERE TO WATCH
F for Fake
1973
88 Mins | PG
Orson Welles' study of infamous frauds includes Clifford Irving's literary hoax about Howard Hughes.


4

Michael Clayton

2007

WHERE TO WATCH

I think it’s a perfect movie, and another one I’ve gone back to many times. The entire cast is superb, but I especially love seeing Sydney Pollock make it look so easy. Most importantly, this film reveals its story in a way that demands your attention. I always aspire for my films to play like a carefully crafted thriller.

WHERE TO WATCH
Michael Clayton
2007
120 Mins | R
A "fixer" (George Clooney) at a corporate law firm faces the biggest challenge of his career.


5

24 Hour Party People

2002

WHERE TO WATCH

OK, if your film isn’t going to play like a carefully crafted thriller, it should play like an episode of Monty Python, which this film does. A story about the Manchester music scene of the 70s and 80s, “Party People” is a pastiche of documentary footage, comedy, and punk attitude. Steve Coogan is particularly brilliant, breaking the 4th wall to let us know that “this scene has a lot of symbolism.” I love how confident this film is in its weirdness.

WHERE TO WATCH
24 Hour Party People
2002
117 Mins | R
An Englishman (Steve Coogan) founds a record label in the 1970s.


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