Directed by: #ONeilSharma
Written by: O'Neil Sharma and #AnthonyStraeger
Mockumentaries featuring film crews treading into dangerous waters for the sake of their art usually provide for a compelling and entertaining time. Using the tropes of the genre filmmakers can craft a faux-realism for an outlandish premise to give insight into how the pursuit of the story can consume. Films such as The Blair Witch Project, Troll Hunter, and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon feature how filmmakers unwittingly become central to the story they are documenting in dangerous ways. O'Neil Sharma’s Fotoautomat Man focuses on a documentary crew seeking to create something out a peculiar local legend in Berlin, a man who lives in the various photo booths across the city. Initially, attention-grabbing with its humorous intro and opening titles, Sharma and Anthony Straeger’s script descends into juvenile perspectives and an unsatisfying mystery.
Even though mockumentaries aren’t make or break on whether not the premise is believable Fotoautomat Man suffers from a lack of authenticity in logic and performance. It’s a simple believable idea about this crew getting tangled up with a shady character but Sharma’s direction makes it all feel orchestrated especially with how a lot of the dialogue is written and performed. While some characters come across as credible such as John Keogh’s spineless director Coleman, or Sönke Möhring as Marco the titular Fotoautomat Man, Sharma struggles to give the audience a reason to care about any of them. They’re all crass, selfishly driven and potentially dangerous, making Fotoautomat Man an unpleasant film with unpleasant characters. There is some humour in them at times but nothing redemptive to allow for 70-minute narrative. Marco tirades about the faults of society, why living in the photo booths is his way of fighting the system but its clearly just another grift of his. Marc Aden Gray’s cameramen Peter makes sexist jokes about Coleman’s ex-wife and Victoria Mayers-Gray’s Danni is harassed by Marco with little to no interference from the rest of the crew out of fear they may lose their subject.
As the film goes on it becomes clear that Marco is a dangerous and disturbed individual with police interview cutaways peppered throughout indicating that something terrible has happened to one of the crew members. These talking heads are effective in places allowing editor Kristschan Hintz to create some moments of comedy and intrigue but there is no satisfying payoff to any of it. What Fotoautomat Man wants to accomplish with its mystery whether it be a lesson on stranger danger or the hubris of amateur filmmakers, it isn’t as potent as Sharma and Straeger would hope. Despite several hidden cameras on the characters either sewed in hats or jackets, allowing for some smooth creative editing on Hintz’s part, very little of the film feels immersive.
Lacking captivating characters and story, Fotoautomat Man quickly runs out of steam, Sharma's hope to create a provocative film, unfortunately, comes across as contrived and unimaginative.