Reality In a Theater Near You Dept.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2013-07-18 17:00:00 No comments

Filmmakers Embrace Reality, on the High Seas and Beyond -

... media fragmentation has made studios more wary of jumping into purely fictional drama, because they can no longer rely on best-selling novels, original stage shows, or the even the reputation of master filmmakers to supply a mass audience. “It’s quite possible that we’re in a golden age for this type of film, and we’re just not aware of it yet,” said Robert Birchard, editor of the American Film Institute catalog of feature films.

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"This type of film" being the non-fiction drama, a la the upcoming Captain Phillips (dir. Paul Greengrass, of United 93starring Tom Hanks). It would be nice if indeed this type of film does turn out to be a good source for modest hit-making beyond the usual awards ceremony chatter.

Last year that crowd of movies consisted of Argo, Lincoln, and Zero Dark Thirty, all of which got a reasonable amount of attention, but which collectively didn't make a fraction of the money of the usual tentpole beasts. But again, just having movies like this at all means that much more diversity in the palette -- and if they're all the more encouraged to fund them and make them, and not simply dump the results off to video, the picture might not be so bleak.

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Greengrass's United 93 was pretty electrifying, and so I'm curious to see what happens this time around with Captain Phillips. Of course, the Paul Greengrass movie I was most curious to see never did come to be: Watchmen. God only knows what that would have been like; file it on the shelf next to Jodorowsky's Dune, for which we now have an apparently fascinating documentary coming our way.

All this reminded me of some non-fiction subjects I'd like to see treated as a movie:

  • The story of Ted Patrick, the man who pioneered cult deprogramming and brought the problem of cult mind control to public attentio in the 1970s.
  • The Christy Scheck story, about how a rebellious teenaged girl was admitted to an unregulated for-profit psychiatric center and committed suicide (as dramatized in Léon Bing's book A Wrongful Death)
  • Richard Firstman and Jamie Talan's The Death of Innocents, which documents how the trial of a mother for having murdered her five children turned into a reassessment of the notion of SIDS or "crib death" being a disease that runs in families.
  • Or how about a biopic of Lester Bangs? After Almost Famous I thought this would be a shoo-in.

Tags: Hollywood Paul Greengrass movies nonfiction