First-Person Doc No Cameras Allowed Rewards With Its Unintentional Revelations


As with many first-person documentaries (those in which the filmmaker is the subject,) the most telling aspects of James Marcus Haney’s No Cameras Allowed are its unintentional revelations.

In 2010, Haney was a USC film student in the final stretch before graduation, when his crush on a gorgeous woman helped fuel his goal of crashing Dante’s hottest circle of hell, Coachella. (She was attending the festival.)

Accompanied by a friend and a “wacky dude” they met on Craigslist, and armed with cameras and bogus wristbands as press-credential camouflage, Haney reached his goal of sneaking into the event and meeting the woman. But he also filmed footage that would launch his career as a documentarian (for HBO) and freelance photographer.

Haney is of a generation almost genetically shaped by technology, social media, celebrity culture, and the narcissism and entitlement they engender. As he falls up in life, No Cameras Allowed — filled with performance footage and stills of Jay Z, Mumford & Sons, Skrillex, and more — is shaped along the outlines of a romantic comedy, including the brutal comeuppance of the asshole hotshot that helps him realize that family and friends are what matter in life.

It’s safety-net rebellion of the sort that MTV has packaged for decades now, so it’s no shock that the network is distributing the film. Still, Haney’s talent and charisma make him worth watching.

He often speaks directly into the camera with forced aw-shucks charm, plus he has a great eye, and the footage of him being trampled during the running of the bulls in Spain (his HBO gig) is nail-biting stuff.