Robert Greene’s Kate Plays Christine, which nabbed this year’s Sundance Film Festival US Documentary Special Jury Award for Writing, continues the Actress (2014) director’s exploration of female thespians and their process. Taking the 1974 on-air suicide of TV host Christine Chubbuck - itself the inspiration for Sidney Lumet’s Network - as a jumping-off point, Greene casts Kate Lyn Sheil (who’s made waves outside her indie film world in Netflix’s House of Cards) as Christine in his own version of this infamous, yet little known, story.
And then the director deftly tosses aside all our expectations, ingeniously using fiction as a mere pretext not only to investigate how actors do their job, but also to gather real clues. Like an empathic detective, Greene attempts to piece together evidence of the very existence of this Sarasota, Florida television personality who’s been practically erased from history. (As a friend and co-worker of the real-life Christine notes in the film, the only reason we’re interested in her is because of how she died.) Greene makes the case that all of us - including the filmmaker himself - are complicit, are actors shaping the media narrative.
I caught up with the filmmaker/editor/writer prior to the doc’s August 24th theatrical release through Grasshopper Film.
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