The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan (January 8/04)
Now that it's been revealed that The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan isn't a documentary at all - Melissa Foster penned the screenplay and a host of actors play publicists, fans, etc - the whole thing seems kind of pointless. While there's no denying that the film makes a few intriguing parallels between Shyamalan and his movies, it's impossible to know what's real and what's been fabricated. Far more perplexing is the presence of Nathaniel Kahn behind the camera, a genuinely talented documentarian responsible for last year's above-average My Architect. Are we to consider The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan his fictional debut?
The film's premise involves Kahn being hired by the Sci-Fi Network to do a profile on Shyamalan and his latest project, The Village. Though Kahn is explicitly told to focus in on the making of the movie, the filmmaker can't help but delve into the mysterious nature of Shyamalan's past - particularly his childhood. Through a series of "unauthorized" interviews, Kahn begins to piece together a fairly clear picture of Shyamalan's upbringing, unearthing several skeletons in the process (a near-drowning when Shyamalan was a boy, for example). This, of course, angers the director and his fierce publicist (played by Ilana Levine), though Kahn presses on - much to the consternation of his producer (Callum Greene).
Though The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan is basically entertaining throughout (if a little long), it's difficult to really take the movie seriously since we have no idea what's based in reality. Foster's screenplay places the emphasis on several key events in Shyamalan's life, associating them with various themes in his movies (ie the significance of water in Unbreakable and Signs). Given that Shyamalan supposedly almost drowned as a child, this is the sort of connection that's impossible to deny. But the revelation is undermined by the realization that the whole thing could just be an invention of the film's screenplay, something that's just as applicable to every other intriguing bit of info offered up by Kahn.
The bottom line is that there's really no reason for The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan to even exist, primarily because it can't be classified a documentary due to the fictional elements nor is it engaging enough to work as a mockumentary (ie A Mighty Wind). The presence of a few humorous moments - including a bizarre interview with Johnny Depp - sort of elevates things, albeit briefly, though it's impossible to shake the feeling of irrelevance that surrounds the film.