2016 Sundance Docs in Focus: KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE

kate plays christineMarking the end of the first half of the US Documentary Competition: Robert Greene’s KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE, in which an actress investigates the complex and tragic history of her latest role.

Festival Section:
US Documentary Competition

Sundance Program Description:

In 1974, television host Christine Chubbuck committed suicide on air at a Sarasota, Florida, news station. This is considered the first televised suicide in history, and though it was the inspiration for the 1976 Best Picture nominee NETWORK, the story and facts behind the event remain mostly unknown. Now in the present, actress Kate Lyn Sheil is cast in a “stylized cheap ‘70s soap opera” version of Christine’s story, and to prepare for the role, Kate travels to Sarasota to investigate the mysteries and meanings behind her tragic demise.

Filmmaker Robert Greene cleverly forgoes your standard talking-head-and-sound-bite approach to nonfiction storytelling, instead choosing to employ Kate Lyn Sheil as a conduit to understanding an impossibly complex issue. Committed to doing justice to Christine’s life, Kate not only candidly pulls back the curtain on her acting process, but she also reveals the biases and presumptions even supposed experts can provide in their diagnosis. KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE boldly challenges its subjects and audience alike to accept that answers from the past are never easy.

Some Background:
Director/Editor: Robert Greene
Greene is the Filmmaker-in-Residence at the Murray Center for Documentary Journalism at the University of Missouri, and made his latest film during his first semester there. He previously directed the documentary features ACTRESS, FAKE IT SO REAL, KATI WITH AN I, and OWNING THE WEATHER. Greene also has extensive credits as an editor, including the 2014 Sundance narratives LISTEN UP PHILIP and CHRISTMAS, AGAIN.

Producers: Douglas Tirola and Susan Bedusa; Co-Producers: Bennett Elliott and Danielle Rosen
4th Row Films’ Tirola is a Sundance alum as the director of this year’s DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD: THE STORY OF THE NATIONAL LAMPOON, and as the executive producer of fiction alum KILLING TIME (2002). His colleagues Susan Bedusa and Danielle Rosen produced and co-produced DRUNK, respectively; and all three carry producing credits for Greene’s previous features.

Why You Should Watch:
In his latest project, Greene continues the exploration of narrative strategies that has marked his critically-acclaimed previous work as cinematic nonfiction. Melding psychological thriller and investigative documentary, he eschews conventional reportage to instead craft something at once both more internal and performative, as realized by the captivating Kate Lyn Sheil. Sheil’s quest to fully embody her subject confronts viewers to understand the complexity of both Chubbuck’s life and her death. For another take based on the same true-life story, check out Antonio Campos’ CHRISTINE, screening in this year’s US Dramatic Competition.

More Info:
Sundance’s Meet the Artists

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the link in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance filmmaker class of 2016 Twitter list.

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

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