Forgotten Silver

Forgotten Silver (1995)
First Run Feature
Cast: Peter Jackson, Sam Neill, Leonard Maltin
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Deleted Scenes

In the 15 years since the release of ’This is Spinal Tap’, we’ve seen the ’mockumentary’ genre grow by leaps and bounds. A recent entry into this arena is ’Forgotten Silver’, an offering that comes to us from New Zealand and cult director Peter Jackson. While Jackson (’From the director of ’The Lord of the Rings’, the box announces) has always had some humor in his films, from the hypnotic ’Heavenly Creatures’ to the riotous ’Dead Alive’, he goes all out for deadpan comedy with this elaborate hoax of a documentary.

In a style that (most likely unintentionally) mocks VH-1’s ’Behind the Music’, ’Forgotten Silver’ tells the story of New Zealand filmmaker Colin McKenzie. McKenzie began making films in the early 1900s and was creative enough to actually make his own film. From there, he went on to invent the tracking shot, the close-up, and color photography. With his brother Brooke, he attempted to make a huge Biblical epic, but met disaster at every turn. I don’t know if a ’mockumentary’ can be called perfect, but ’Forgotten Silver’ certainly comes close. The film is played completely straight, right up until the end credits where the ’Colin McKenzie Archives’ are thanked and never tips it hat that it’s a sham. Even when the story becomes incredibly preposterous, it is told in a way that makes it sound believable. Add to that mix, testimonials from the likes of Leonard Maltin, Harvey Weinstein, and Sam Neill, and you’re got a story that feels very real. Apparently, ’Forgotten Silver’ became the ’War of the Worlds’ of New Zealand, as viewers of the film (which was made for TVNZ in New Zealand) were outraged when they learned that this newly discovered national hero never existed. ’Forgotten Silver’ is sly and entertaining and at times, incredibly funny, but most of all, it all seems very plausible.

’Forgotten Silver’ comes to DVD by way of First Run Features. As the film was made for television, it isn’t letterboxed, but there are some slight black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. (It measured out to about 1.40:1 on my screen.) The picture is clear, but there are some very obvious defects from the source print. Also, the color scenes are somewhat washed out. (Although, this may have been intentional to add to the documentary feel.) The audio is a digital mono, but it is acceptable, as the majority of the film consists of interviews and narration. The DVD contains an audio commentary from co-writer/co-director Costa Botes. This is a very entertaining and often humorous commentary, as Botes describes the trials and tribulations that went into making this low-budget project. However, at times the commentary is difficult to hear over the dialogue of the film itself. The making-of featurette on the DVD is entitled ’Behind the Bull’ (!), and runs about 21 minutes. This includes interviews with the people responsible for ’Forgotten Silver’, as they discuss the origins of the film and the describe the controversy which followed. Also included on the DVD are nine deleted scenes, most of which only last a few seconds. Fans of subtle humor or those who want to see a completely different side of Peter Jackson should definitely check out ’Forgotten Silver’.