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21/06/2007 - par Mark Tungate

Documentaries are the new blockbusters. Last night I went to see Barbet Schroeder's film about the controversial lawyer Jacques Vergès, L'Avocat de la terreur. I go to the cinema often - at least once a week - but nothing I've seen recently has been as disturbing and intriguing as this. Admittedly it doesn't exactly zip along, but from the battle for Algeria to the bizarre emotional triangle between Vergès, the Red Army Faction terrorist Magdalena Kopp and her lover Carlos the Jackal, it had enough mystery, drama and (unbelievably) romance to satisfy even the most demanding spectator.

Increasingly, I find truth more rewarding than fiction. But I'm not alone. Numbed by special effects and the fake viscera of video games, audiences are increasingly hungry for reality. Not so long ago, ­documentaries stayed on TV. But since Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911 walked off with the palme d'or at Cannes in 2004, fact has been fashionable at the movies. Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth stirred debate on climate change. Even better, in my view, was last year's highly underrated Sketches of Frank Gehry, about the brilliant architect. It was directed by Sydney Pollock, better known for feature films such as Out of Africa and The Interpreter. I also loved Stacy Peralta's documentary about big wave surfers, Riding Giants. When a skilled director frames the lives of real people, in all their depth and ambiguity, the result is more gripping than any screen writer's delirium.

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