Mockumentary (also known as mock documentary) is a genre of film and television in which fictitious events are presented in documentary format; the term can also refer to an individual work within the genre. These productions are often used to analyze or comment on current events and issues by using a fictitious setting, or to parody the documentary form itself. They may be either comedic or dramatic in form, although comedic mockumentaries are more common. A dramatic mockumentary should not be confused with docudrama, a genre in which documentary and dramatic techniques are combined to depict real events.
Mockumentaries are often presented as historical documentaries, with b roll and talking heads discussing past events, or as cinéma vérité pieces following people as they go through various events. Though the precise origins of the genre are not known, examples emerged during the 1950s, when archival film footage became relatively easy to locate. A very early example was a short piece on the "Swiss Spaghetti Harvest" that appeared as an April fools' joke on the British television program Panorama in 1957.
The term "mockumentary" is thought to have been popularized in the mid-1980s when This Is Spinal Tap director Rob Reiner used it in interviews to describe that film. It is not known with certainty when the term "mock-documentary" was first used, but the Oxford English Dictionary notes appearances of "mockumentary" from 1965.
Mockumentaries are often partly or wholly improvised, as an unscripted style of acting helps to maintain the pretense of reality. Comedic mockumentaries rarely have laugh tracks, also to sustain the atmosphere, although there are exceptions - for example, Operation Good Guys had a laugh track from its second series onwards.
Early examples of mock-documentaries include David Holzman's Diary (1967), Take the Money and Run (1969), and The Rutles (1978). Earlier work, including Orson Welles's 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds, various April Fool's Day news reports, and vérité style film and television during the 1960s and 1970s, served as precursor to the genre.
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