Independent journalist Tom Roston checks in and writes about the world of documentaries in his column, Doc Soup. Today, he raises some questions that came to mind as he watched the most recent POV film.

So, I’ll repeat what I said in my Monday post that I think The Last Conquistador is a really good film, but, starting here, I want to position myself as a gadfly to the POV filmmakers. I’m partly inspired by Lars Von Trier‘s Five Obstructions, a documentary about how he has a fellow filmmaker make the same film over and over, but having to overcome new obstacles each time. To Von Trier, discord and disruption lead to greater creativity.

So, in that spirit, and in the general spirit of constructive critcism and open dialogue, I want to push the POV filmmakers a little. I’ve got a feeling they’ll push right back.

And so here are two questions I’d like to pose about the film:

1) Was I alone in thinking from about the mid-point of the doc that there was a really obvious solution to the impasse? Just build another statue that honors the Native Americans, one that can be placed close to the one of Oñate, without marring that statue’s place, but serving as a counterpoint? Would that have cost too much money? If so, I’d still have liked to have heard this discussed. By showing Houser during the credits, discussing a similar idea with a new statue on the Mexican-U.S. border, I suppose this issue is addressed, but it feels like an after thought. Was this never really part of the discussion during the building of the original statue?

2) By using a voice-over that articulates the Native Americans’ position, while showing images of the white people at a fundraiser, wasn’t that pushing the filmmaker’s editorial voice too far? I felt that this was the one instance when the filmmakers went over the line, and turned what’s a pretty balanced narrative into a piece of advocacy. It’s ironic that this also happens to be one of the more enjoyably comical moments in the doc, but perhaps at too much of a cost? I wonder if other POV-viewers shared the same questions, and if the filmmakers would mind chiming in on the matter.

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Tom Roston
Tom Roston is a guest columnist for POV's documentary blog. He is a former Premiere magazine senior editor, who graduated from Brown University and started his career in journalism at The Nation and then Vanity Fair. Tom's freelance work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, The Hollywood Reporter and other publications. He has written several Kindle Singles, including the bestselling Kindle Singles Interview: Ken Burns. Tom's current list of favorite documentaries are: 1. Koyanisqaatsi by Godfrey Reggio; 2. Hoop Dreams by Steve James; 3.Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley; 4.Crumb by Terry Zwigoff; 5. Montage of Heck by Brett Morgen