Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock puts his hosting hat on for “50 Documentaries to See Before You Die,” a CurrentTV series debuting Tuesday night. Spurlock hits the road to examine the most interesting, influential and controversial non-fiction films in recent history. But first, he talked to Metro about how the 50 were chosen, his favorite moments of the series and how he sees himself as the documentary equivalent of a drug dealer.
How did you got involved with this project?
Current had this idea of working with the International Documentary Association as well as a lot of esteemed and notable professors of the world of documentary film, and they called me to see if I would be willing to go on the road and do what I usually do in films to explore the world of docs. It’s kind of just like a whole other layer. It’s like a documentary about documentaries, inside of a documentary.
Did you have any input about which films were included?
I had no say whatsoever. That was the whole thing, I got zero input. I was basically told, “We had real geniuses do this list, not you.” So all I got to do was relay the information that much smarter people than me came up with.
Did you find yourself agreeing with what they picked?
Yeah. I think most people when they watch the special, there are going to be a lot of films that they agree with, there will be some films that, like me, they’ll go, “How can that not be on the list? How can this film not be on the list?” But I think overall people are going to be really excited by it.
What were some of your favorite moments that we’ll see?
For me, just traveling around and meeting some of these people that are kind of these film icons. You know, meeting the kids, who are now all grown up, from “Hoop Dreams.” Meeting Mr. Brainwash — incredible. Meeting the young preacher from “Jesus Camp,” who still lives in Missouri and is about to go to college. You know, to see these people in real life after you’ve seen them in films is pretty spectacular. And being someone who is a fantastic student of the medium and someone who consumes a tremendous amount of film and television, to me people like that — even though they’re real, these are not actors, these are actually just regular folks like you and me — it’s still a great opportunity to get to have conversations with people like that.
Do you see this as part of an effort to bring documentaries to more of a mainstream audience?
Yeah, I think that’s one of the things that I was excited by about the show. I think this will continue that dialogue, an examination of docs, the impact they have, how important they are in our society. I think it will also open a door to getting people to want to see these movies. One of the things that I always preach to people when we start talking about documentaries is, people say, “Documentaries are boring” or, “I don’t think they’re going to be that good” or, “I like movies that are entertaining.” I like turning people on to gateway docs — docs that will kind of give you your first taste and get you wanting to come back for more. And I think a lot of those are entertaining movies, like “King of Kong” or “Anvil” or “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” “Hands on a Hard Body,” “American Movie.” Films that I think have incredibly strong characters, which docs usually do, but also have great stories. And I think once people kind of get addicted to those stories, they’ll keep coming back.