This dryly funny mockumentary about the lost work of a pioneering New Zealand film genius is probably one of the best examples of the faux-documentary genre. In fact, it was so successful that when it originally aired on N... more »ew Zealand television, hundreds of viewers bought the premise hook, line, and sinker. If you didn't know any better yourself, it's entirely possible you might be duped into believing the extremely tall tale of one Colin MacKenzie, an ambitious filmmaker who made the world's first talking movie (years before The Jazz Singer), invented color film, and created a huge biblical epic that would put Cecil B. DeMille and D.W. Griffith to shame. Filmmaker Peter Jackson (Heavenly Creatures) shrewdly inserts himself into the film via his documentation of the "discovery" of McKenzie's lost epic, which for years was preserved in a garden shed. This hidden gold mine, which Jackson likens to finding Citizen Kane in an attic, will forever rewrite the history of film--a fact to which both critic Leonard Maltin and studio exec Harvey Weinstein eagerly attest. Jackson chronicles MacKenzie's fame through newspaper accounts, still photos, and keenly inventive footage showing both the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of MacKenzie's Salome as well as clips from that crowning film achievement; if you don't believe the filmmakers, actor Sam Neill is on hand to vouch for its importance. Jackson has the self-importance of film documentaries down pat, from the "re-creations" of past events through photos and voiceovers (the film's narration is properly stentorian), and never tips his hand once through the interviews with film historians as well as MacKenzie's "wife." Even nonfilm historians and aficionados will be won over by Jackson's subtle humor and inventiveness--you'll remember the story of Colin MacKenzie for a long time to come. -Mark Englehart« less
A little white lie from beginning to end (but don't tell)
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 02/15/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Continuing my quest to screen all of the films of director Peter Jackson, in order to see how a guy who started out making bloody zombie flicks in New Zealand eventually got to be a three-time Academy Award nominee for best director who is the favorite to finally bring Oscar home for "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," I have come to "Forgotten Silver," the 1997 mockumentary made by Jackson and Costa Bostas. The obvious comparison is to the work of Christopher Guest and his cohorts, who brought us "This is Spinal Tap," "Waiting for Guffman," "Best in Show" and "A Mighty Wind. But given the dry wit that runs throughout "Forgotten Silver" the film that springs to my mind is Woody Allen's "Zelig." How dry is the wit? Well, when "Forgotten Silver" aired on New Zealand television it convinced quite a few Kiwi that they had a new national hero in Colin McKenzie, the lost film director who is the topic of this effort. This happened even though McKenzie is played by Thomas Robins, a New Zealand actor who was the original Host of the New Zealand, Saturday morning Breakfast show, "Squirt" (his only other film role has been as Deagol in "The Return of the King").
There is fun to be had in showing "Forgotten Silver" to unsuspecting friends, family and people dragged in off of the street, to see at what point they catch on that there is something amiss here. The idea is that Collin McKenzie was a cinematic innovator who came up with the first mechanized camera, the first full-length feature film with sound, and the first color film. Unfortunately while doing these things he forgot to invent subtitles and accidentally invented the porn film. Hopefully these people will be amused by what happened and not end up being outraged like the New Zealand viewers who bit hard on the proceedings and complained bitterly to the network and the press afterwards (excerpts are provided on the DVD's feature). But then I recall having to inform my oldest daughter that "The Blair Witch Project" was not "real," so I know you how dicey these things can be. The hoax works for several reasons. First, nobody ever winks at the camera, including talking heads Sam Neill, Leonard Maltin, Harvey Weinstein. Their remarks are skewed only slightly and if you are not in on the gag you might not get it (How many of you got the joke of the Russian woman named Alexandra Nevsky?). Second, the documentary weaves in real history and historical footage from the start of the 20th century. Talking about the Battle of Gallipoli is always going to resonate down under. Third, all of the footage for "Salome," Colin McKenzie's lost silent classic, is done "straight" (an idea that has to be taken with a grain of salt when you are talking about acting in silent movies). Finally, Jackson and Bostas do the entire production from start to finish in true documentary fashion. If it looks like a documentary and it sounds like a documentary then chances are you have the audience hook, line and forgotten silver."
"Silver" is gold
E. A Solinas | MD USA | 07/28/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Watching this mockumentary, it isn't hard to see why the New Zealand public thought it was for real when it was first aired. Peter Jackson, the endearingly hobbitlike director of fantasy epic "Lord of the Rings," tried his hand at something a bit different aside from his splatter-gore horror films, and the eerie "Heavenly Creatures." Okay, more than a "bit" different.
It documents the discovery of a film by the cinematic wizard Colin McKenzie, who was born in New Zealand in the 1800s, died in a somewhat deteriorated state, and made amazing breakthroughs in filmmaking in the early 20th century, that were never seen for various reasons... until they were unearthed in a shed. Specifically, the epic "Salome," which had some rather odd financial backers (mobsters and a clown, for example) Now there is a documentary being filmed, with interviews and pieces of footage from the "forgotten silver" of Colin McKenzie, the most brilliant filmmaker who never lived!
Jackson himself is in this in more than a cameo appearance (in all his films, he appears for at least a few seconds), as the filmmaker; Miramax big man Harvey Weinstein, actor Sam Neill, and critic Leonard Maltin also appear as themselves, which makes the film seem even more real. (Especially when Weinstein claims he'll be distributing "Salome") If I hadn't known that this WAS a mockumentary, I might've thought it was for real.
Even though the tongue-in-cheek attitude marks this as a mockumentary, it's very well-done and detailed. The way Jackson fake-aged the footage from the old films, it's totally believable that these have been sitting in a shed for decades. The details show some of the reasons why Jackson did "Lord of the Rings" so well: careful attention to costuming, particularly in the "Salome" film, detailed camerawork, and a lot of affection for the inspiration for the film. Jackson himself is never more likeable than he is here, and it seems like he's having a good time.
This is another, not-as-well-known-as-it-deserves example of Peter Jackson's incredibly skilled direction. He is a brilliant director, and this is an uproariously funny and well-made mockumentary. No wonder the audience thought it was real. Funny, cute, detailed and a must-have for fans of Peter Jackson and of all "forgotten silver.""
A fun mockumentary with good dvd extras
audrey | white mtns | 09/27/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Forgotten Silver is a little gem of a mockumentary. Unlike other films in the genre such as Waiting for Guffman or This is Spinal Tap, a true documentary tone is maintained throughout the film. It's only as one hears that the subject of the film, Colin McKenzie, developed the first tracking shot, the first color film, the first close-up, the first feature-length epic, the film of the *real* first human flight, etc. that one becomes suspicious .... who *is* this guy?! Did he really get arrested for stealing 2000 eggs? After all, it *does* take 12 eggs to emulsify one minute of film .... Interviews with industry experts such as Harvey Weinstein, Leonard Maltin and Sam Neill lend authenticity to this project. You'll have to watch it at least twice to appreciate the hoax, and it is a hoot to watch it with someone who doesn't know the truth.DVD extras are worthwhile: director's comments over the film; 'Behind the Bull', a featurette with explanatory comments by the directors and technical crew; a number of deleted scenes and stills.This is a worthy addition to a fun genre, and the DVD extras make this purchase worthwhile."
Like it's subject, a little-known treasure
Daniel Friedman | Harrison, NY USA | 04/10/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Forgotten Silver is one of those films you've probably never heard of but once you see it, you'll wonder why. This mockumentary produced in the late 1990s for broadcast on New Zealand television is funny, clever and thought-provoking -- one of the true cinematic pleasures of the past 10 years, blending wit, technology and the products of a relatively little-known culture.The film is the creation of Peter Jackson, best known today as director of The Lord of the Rings, and actor Costa Botes. Jackson, playing himself in the movie, claims to have discovered a collection of old films in a neighbor's shed, revealing that New Zealander Colin McKenzie (Botes) invented motion picture cameras, color film, sound technology and other landmarks of cinema in complete obscurity before others who are regularly credited for doing so. His ultimate achievement, a biblical epic called Salome, is the lost treasure of film history.Jackson enlists the aid of other well-known film personas, including critic Leonard Maltin, to explore the life of Colin McKenzie and reveal just how sensational this discovery is. Most of the humor is subtle and tongue-in-cheek, as it is in Peter Jackson's other films. However, the subject matter is treated with the utmost seriousness and therefore hard to discern from fact. Similar to the effects created by Woody Allen in Zelig, Jackson creates extremely authentic-looking black-and-white nitrate footage in which Colin's achievements are well documented. A sequence in which the filmmaker sets out in search of the ruins of the Salome set feels like an episode of "National Geographic Explorer." In fact, the overall film is so utterly believable that it caused a minor scandal in its native land upon its original airing. The populace of New Zealand demanded to know why one of its native sons had never received the recognition he so clearly deserved.The DVD's special features serve to enhance the already-convincing documentary aspects, even though they open up the whole bag of tricks like magicians revealing their secrets. In addition to a commentary audio track by Jackson and Botes, the DVD includes interviews detailing the production of the film and the controversy Jackson and Botes created by doing their jobs so well. What truly enhance the overall viewing experience are the inclusion of footage outtakes and a demonstration of the special-effects test shots. The outtakes invigorate the film's impressive mystique, and the test shots are illuminating inside looks at the tools of the film trade and the progress that has been made."
Absolutely Brilliant! If you didn't know, you wouldn't know
Daniel Friedman | 04/15/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've been in the Motion Picture business for twenty years and it fooled me. So much so that for 12 hours I was searching my film reference books, newspapers, sock drawer and finally the internet before I got clued in. Great fun. Very well done. "War of the Worlds meets Spinal Tap.""