If you’ve been following either this site or Grantland for the last week, you’ll know that Grantland had an Errol Morris week dedicated to writing and discussing his filmography as well as featuring a new short documentary each day, collectively titled “It’s Not Crazy, It’s Sports”. Each different short documentary examined a bizarre true story involving sports and their fans.
All of them were incredibly captivating bits of storytelling, running the emotional spectrum from humorous to tragic. However the best of the bunch might have been the first of them all, titled “The Subterranean Stadium”, which followed a group of men that participate in an Electronic Football League once a day each week. The piece is a wondrous one, through the interviews with these men Morris portrays these men, their oddities and obsessions as a microcosm for authorship over a virtual reality. It’s humorous in Morris’s acknowledgement of how bizarre these guys are, but because of how fascinated Morris is by them he also brings out moments that feel almost tragic when these men talk about their regrets in life. In only 20 minutes, Morris created a gripping and intriguing bit of storytelling.
Errol Morris will always be known as a feature documentary filmmaker, but over the course of his career he’s spent much of his time working in various other platforms such as television, commercials, and even writing. With that in mind, it’s not entirely surprising that he would turn to the internet to tell some stories, but at the same time it’s fascinating to consider that he did just that.
By doing so, Morris reaffirmed that he’s a filmmaker that’s willing – and even excited – to adapt and innovate. One of the things that makes Morris’s films so captivating is because of how fascinated he is by his subjects, and with the shorts he did for Grantland he seemed just as fascinated by making these for a website. Most filmmakers would consider that a step down, but Morris makes it feel like a new avenue of storytelling. ESPN has long been making short documentaries about unheard sports stories, so why not turn to one of the greatest documentary filmmakers to tell some? With these short documentaries, Morris shows he hasn’t lost a step even when making films for a website, and that nobody else quite makes a documentary like he does. Morris is fascinated by the people he interviews, but he’s also fascinated by simply telling stories regardless of how they are distributed and seen. (You can find all the short docs by Morris here.)