Docu drama
 
Nick Broomfield never could resist popping up in his own documentary films. But in his latest, about a serial killer, he had no choice: he was a witness for the defence. Mark Lawson reports

Friday November 14, 2003
The Guardian


When a hot new contender comes along in any genre, it's usually bad news for established talents. However, Michael Moore's arrival in the field of polemical documentary has been oddly beneficial for Nick Broomfield, an earlier political film-maker who made such award-winning pieces as The Leader, His Driver and the Driver's Wife - about South African racist demagogue Eugene Terre Blanche - and Biggie and Tupac, his investigation of hip-hop killings.

This boost to Broomfield has come because of what detractors had previously disliked in his work: they saw hints of vanity and egotism in the fact that, though he styled himself as a director rather than a reporter, he delivered the commentary and frequently appeared in the corner of the frame. This was considered a fault when measured against the long tradition of the invisible documentarian.

Broomfield's intrusions - padded headphones around his neck, boom mike on a stick, handsome tanned face in profile - became such a visual signature that he was able to use them as a joke in an ad campaign he made for Volkswagen cars. But now, when it comes to putting the film-maker up front, Broomfield seems like a church mouse beside the King Rat of Moore, who has stretched the documentary-maker's presence to include shouting in front of the camera in a big hat.

Apart from what now seems like relative modesty, Broomfield's case is also helped by the fact that, in his latest film, he has reason to be seen: he is a player in the story. Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer is a continuation - until the full stop indicated by the title - of a 1992 documentary about a Florida prostitute sent to death row for murdering eight of her clients. Aileen Wuornos was one of the very few female s

 
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