Fact-based films: Bending the truth

A recent trend for fact-based films has caused many journalists and moviegoers to question the validity of this new type of work. Tom Brook reports.

A wave of fact-based films is coming to Hollywood. One of the most prominent releases is Fruitvale Station –based on the killing of a young African-American named Oscar Grant –who was shot by a police officer in California in 2009. The story is pertinent with political events in American today, particularly with the case of Trayvon Martin – the black teenager shot by neighbourhood watchman George Zimmerman in Florida in 2012.

Other fact-based films being released include The Fifth Estate, the story of Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and Lovelace, featuring Peter Sarsgaard as real-life pornographer Chuck Traynor.

Another fact-based film causing controversy –while winning awards – is The Act of Killing, which deals with the anti-Communist death purges in Indonesia in the 1960s. In an unusual move, the director asked the perpetrators to re-enact these killings in the style of different film genres. It has sparked a debate as to whether the film humanises the killers.

Fact-based films have always existed in Hollywood, so what is it about the current crop which differs from the norm? Tom Brook explains how the rapidity in which the films are released, and the tension between truth-telling and artistic freedom is causing many journalists, commentators and moviegoers to question these films’ validity.

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