Director: Russ Hexter. Cast: Bill Garrison, Edith Meeks, David Phelps, Jim Pryor, Jonathan Shafer, Stephen Beals. Screenplay: Russ Hexter and John Housely.

A faux-documentary about class and lifestyle conflicts between the residents of fictional Dadetown, New York: half of them blue-collar employees at the town's older-than-dirt Gorman metal products factory, the other half a yuppie set newly arrived to Dadetown to install and sustain a brand new media technologies syndicate called API. The screenplay, by director Russ Hexter and collaborator John Housely, suffers a few lapses in logic and psychological plausibility that reveal to a careful viewer that Dadetown is not the genuine Barbara Kopple-style documentary that it attempts to pass itself off as, but Hexter's project is nonetheless a lively and weirdly compelling one. Dadetown's fictionality became apparent to me rather early, but as with other "big plot twist" movies, if they're worth their salt, Hexter's film has rewards beyond the exposure of its central conceit. Chief among them is its constant study of how news and documentary media pit their human subjects against one another despite the guise of "objectivity," and the distinctly American (well, perhaps) spirit behind a project that banks on corporate intrusions into bucolic lifestyles as a reliable and effective source of sorrow and pity.

Screen time is apportioned fairly evenly among the large, necessarily unknown cast, but Bill Garrison as an aging town councilman and Edith Meeks (from Todd Haynes' Poison) as Dadetown's omnipresent journalist turn in particularly fine and memorable portraits. Still, the joke may be on the filmmakers, though, in so far as even a deliberate and orchestrated production such as this one cannot conjure any human subjects as bizarre or compelling as the strange-but-true personalities in the real documentaries on which Dadetown is based, from the rabbit vendor and human statues in Michael Moore's Roger & Me to the almost allegorically evil sniper bullies of Kopple's monumental Harlan County, U.S.A. B

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