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Note: This post may contain spoilers.

Unless you watched the opening credits, you would not recognize From One Second to the Next (2013) as a Werner Herzog film. This short is a public service announcement sponsored by the four major cell phone companies in the United States about the outcomes of texting and driving.

This short features a series of interviews with survivors, family members, police officers, and drivers who caused the accidents because they were texting. One 8-year-old is paralyzed, an Amish family is killed, another woman survives with extensive physical and brain damage, and a daughter tries to come to grips with the loss of her father. Each story drives home the same basic message: Don’t text and drive. Why? Because the message can wait.

Aside from interviews and titles, this short bears none of Herzog’s auteurial signatures: no voiceover, no presence, no speculation, no tangents. The message here is clear and simple, and in many ways that is the point, since the short is part of a larger campaign to get people to stop engaging in what is really a very dangerous activity, not necessarily for you, but definitely for others.

I included this short because it is always interesting how artists engage in various activities in support of their art and how critics sometimes look away from these works as not “true” representations of the director’s work. Yet, directors such as Errol Morris in particular have extensive careers doing advertising, and a recent article interviewed Rory Kennedy about her move into making commercials as well. So because this piece is sponsored, does that preclude it from being part of his oeuvre? Does the fact that it is a public service announcement exclude it from the documentary genre? Just a couple thoughts.

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Heather McIntosh
Heather McIntosh is a documentary blogger and mass media professor at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Follow her on Twitter @documentarysite.