Death to 2020: The effect of the mockumentary

Image Credit: Laoise Tarrant

Anna Blackburn highlights the techniques and effects of a mockumentary-style film in Netflix original “Death to 2020”, a film everyone should experience.

Before the many life-changing events that occurred in 2020, it seemed that people had no fear: spending endless nights out in crowded pubs, taking holidays abroad, and even simple things like going to work or school all seemed mundane. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has, and continues to, dominate the headlines and suspend travel, work, school, and socialising, but it was not the only major event in 2020. 

On 27th December 2020, Netflix released "Death to 2020". However, this is not a sappy rom-com or box-office thriller. It is a “mockumentary” - a documentation of real-life events in a fictionalised documentary style, directed by Al Campbell and written by the creators of Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones. 

The film starts with an introduction of the characters that will be interviewed throughout the film, before beginning in January detailing major events in 2020: Australian wildfires, Brexit, Covid-19, the Black Lives Matter movement, the US Presidential Election, and talk of the vaccine. In order for the writers to get the message of an urgent need for action, the commentary of the interviewees includes swearing, humour, and false accounts of history. The use of multiple perspectives in this film not only displays diversity on-screen but reaches a wider audience. After showing real clips of speeches, news reports, or natural disasters explained by the narrator, each figure shares their opinion on the situations, often involving a backhanded comment, such as Tennyson Foss (Hugh Grant) commenting on Boris Johnson being infected with coronavirus: “at a time of national crisis, the Prime Minister might have to be replaced by someone less qualified than him. Which is impossible.”

“With unprecedented access to experts... politicos... powerbrokers... monarchs... scientists... psychologists... and average citizens”, this satirical film is similar to Weekend Update, a segment on Saturday Night Live which reports the news and then makes fun of it. Previously, you may have encountered other mockumentary-style television shows like The Office or Parks and Recreation, but this new film is not only a mockumentary. It uses its characters to lambast biased politicians, with Jeanetta Grace Susan (Lisa Kudrow) disputing factual doc footage: “Ok I know this doesn’t fit with your agenda, but this never happened”. It highlights the all-too-real effects of lockdown on the ‘average’ person, with Gemma Nerrick (Diane Morgan) stating: “I live on my own, and after a while, I got so lonely I developed a multiple personality disorder on purpose so I could keep myself company”. It also tastefully promotes the ideals of the Black Lives Matter movement while simultaneously critiquing the actions of leaders and police officers involved in the character of Dash Bracket (Samuel L Jackson): “Fact is, that those officers didn’t see George Floyd as a human being, but the world did… In some ways, I prefer the coronavirus to the police… at least it doesn’t pretend to be there to help”.

It is a film which makes light of traumatic events and aims to inspire and promote real change by pointing out where we went wrong.

There is little more to be said about the humour and solidification of reality Death to 2020. It is a film which makes light of traumatic events and aims to inspire and promote real change by pointing out where we went wrong. I highly recommend this ‘Netflix Original Comedy Event’ to all those who would already like to forget 2020.