2016 Sundance Docs in Focus: NUTS!

nutsThe final 2016 Sundance doc profile for the week: NUTS!, Penny Lane’s curious animated tale of 20th century medical quackery and shameless self-promotion.

Festival Section:
US Documentary Competition

Sundance Program Description:

NUTS! recounts the true story of John Romulus Brinkley, a small-town Kansas doctor who discovers in 1917 that he can cure impotence by transplanting goat testicles into men. And that’s just the tipping point in this stranger-than-fiction tale. With the balls of a PT Barnum, the gonads of goats, and the wishful dreams of flaccid men, Brinkley amassed a fortune, was almost elected Governor of Kansas, invented junk mail and the infomercial, and built the world’s most powerful radio station. By the time all of the twists and turns of Brinkley’s story are revealed, NUTS! certainly earns its title.

Utilizing hilariously cheeky animation and the writings of Brinkley himself (whose dubious memoir provides the narration for this true story), filmmaker Penny Lane injects her audacious tale with humor and empathy. We’re reminded that our love of (and need for) compelling narratives is exactly what makes us so endlessly susceptible to being conned. But don’t be fooled here; Penny Lane is the real deal.

Some Background:
Director/Producer/Co-Editor: Penny Lane
This is Lane’s sophomore documentary feature, following the acclaimed OUR NIXON, which debuted at Rotterdam, screened extensively on the fest circuit, was broadcast on CNN, and was released theatrically. She is currently on sabbatical from Colgate University, where she is a professor in the Department of Art and Art History.

Producers: James Belfer, Caitlin Mae Burke, and Daniel Shepard
This is Belfer’s documentary producing debut. Via Dogfish Pictures, he has previously produced Sundance narrative alumni including PRINCE AVALANCE (2013) COMPLIANCE (2012), LIKE CRAZY (2011), SALVATION BOULEVARD (2011), and THE ROMANTICS (2010). Joining him are Shepard, a co-founder of Cartuna, his adult cartoon animation studio; and Burke, an independent producer whose previous docs include SEX AND BROADCASTING and APPROACHING THE ELEPHANT.

Co-Producers: David Armillei and Kara Janeczko; Associate Producer: Gene Tognacci
Armillei was a co-producer for Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner RICH HILL (2014) and an associate producer for OUR NIXON, while Janeczko counts among her other producing credits Sundance fiction alum 3 BACKYARDS (2010).

Executive Producers: Dan Cogan and Elias Savada
Impact Partners’ Cogan counts two other 2016 Sundance projects among his executive producer credits, NOTES ON BLINDNESS and THE EAGLE HUNTRESS. His alumni credits are extensive, and most recently include last year’s THE HUNTING GROUND, SEMBENE!, DREAMCATCHER, HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD, CHUCK NORRIS VS COMMUNISM, and CENSORED VOICES.

Savada has extensive film credits as a researcher, as well as an associate producer for OUR NIXON.

Why You Should Watch:
Lane’s approach to realize the Brinkley legend makes for a perfect fit with the story’s wild premise, flipping documentary convention in ever-surprising and creative ways. The film’s use of narration and different styles of animation are especially inspired, takeoffs of biographical tools that yield unforgettable, entertaining returns.

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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