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Forgotten Silver (1995).

July 26, 2007

The Scoop:
Between making “Heavenly Creatures” and “The Frighteners,” Peter Jackson teamed up with buddy Costa Botes to take a detour with this project, a mockumentary made for New Zealand television about a fictional pioneer filmmaker.

With loads of wry, bone-dry humor, Jackson and Botes tell the story of native New Zealander Colin MacKenzie, who during the silent era was the real inventor of a whole slew of cinematic tricks, including tracking shots, close-ups, color photography and even sound. After the completion of his troubled epic “Salome” (which Jackson and Botes “restore”), MacKenzie disappears into obscurity and is killed in the Spanish Civil War, only to have his forgotten work discovered decomposing in the shed belonging to a neighbor of Jackson’s mother.

Celebrity interviewees like Leonard Maltin, Harvey Weinstein and Sam Neill are in on the joke as well, although most of the viewing public apparently was not. After the film was revealed to be fictional following its successful premiere on TVNZ, a huge public outcry ensued (all of which is carefully detailed in the “Behind the Bull” featurette on the DVD).

Jackson and Botes went to great lengths to make the historic footage look authentic, and it pays off as an intelligent, loving ode to the filmmaking of the period.

Best Bit:
The sordid story behind MacKenzie’s experiments in making color film.

Side Note:
The vintage photographs of MacKenzie and his brother Brook are actually doctored versions of photos from the Botes family album, specifically Botes’ grandfather and great uncle.

Companion Viewing:
“Zelig” (1983).


Take a Look:
Just a brief snippet detailing the end of MacKenzie’s collaboration with silent comedian “Stan the Man,” in which Stan gets his comeuppance for years of terrorizing innocent passers-by with his Borat-style ambush humor:

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