2012 Sundance Docs in Focus: THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES

Like fellow 2012 Sundance US Documentary Competition titles DETROPIA and WE’RE NOT BROKE, the next film also reflects on the Recession: Lauren Greenfield’s THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES offers a portrait of the very wealthy, forced to cope with the economic crisis.

Sundance Program Description:

With the epic dimensions of a Shakespearean tragedy, THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES follows billionaires Jackie and David’s rags-to-riches story to uncover the innate virtues and flaws of the American dream. We open on the triumphant construction of the biggest house in America, a sprawling, 90,000-square-foot mansion inspired by Versailles. Since a booming time-share business built on the real-estate bubble is financing it, the economic crisis brings progress to a halt and seals the fate of its owners. We witness the impact of this turn of fortune over the next two years in a riveting film fraught with delusion, denial, and self-effacing humor.

Lauren Greenfield instinctively knows what questions to ask, when to ask them, and, more importantly, where to put her camera to mine this overflowing treasure of events. She constructs a series of glowing metaphors to concoct a fascinating character study of parents, children, pets, and household employees as their privileged existence turns upside down. The end result is a portrait of a couple who dared to dream big but lose, still maintaining their unique brand of humility.

Some Background:
Acclaimed documentary photographer Greenfield previously screened both her first documentary feature, THIN (2006), and her short, KIDS + MONEY (2008) at Sundance. Executive producers for the film include Greenfield’s spouse Frank Evers (INSTITUTE/Evergreen Pictures) and Dan Cogan (Impact Partners) – the latter serves in the same capacity for fellow competition title HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE.

Why You Should Watch:
Greenfield offers a fascinating window into privilege. The pre-Recession scenes of opulence tell a rags-to-riches story of lives which might be enviable to some or strike others as needlessly extravagant. While some viewers might expect to bask in schadenfreude after the Recession strikes the family, Greenfield resists reductiveness and stereotyping, instead building a compelling portrait of complex characters. As a result, her film presents a very different, and very telling, perspective on the financial crisis.

More Info:
While the doc doesn’t have a standalone website, Greenfield’s site may be found here. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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