On Friday, September 28 the Dryden Theatre will screen the Rochester, NY premiere of one of the most controversial films of the year, Craig Zobel’s Compliance. After a now notorious Q & A session following its debut at this year’s Sundance Film Festival the film was immediately picked up for US distribution by Magnolia Pictures. It’s had a lot of press and many positive reviews. We love movies that provoke discussion. Good art can make for an uncomfortable experience and this movie has it in spades.
The Compliance premiere has reminded us of when the Dryden screened The Great World of Sound (Zobel, 2007). That evening Craig Zobel and Pat Healy were in attendance. Zobel introduced the film. He and Healy were interviewed by former George Eastman House Assistant Curator and Dryden film programmer Jim Healy (Pat’s brother) following its presentation. Those at the screening will likely remember some tension during the Q & A. This is something that the mild-mannered Zobel must be used to by now.
In his review, Roger Ebert said The Great World of Sound was about the American dream turned nightmare. The general consensus was that the film was a thoughtful, funny and original character-driven study, we did have one member of the audience who questioned the tactics that the filmmakers took to make it. At the time it was being made, some members of the cast didn’t realize they were being filmed. Zobel explained that he took out an ad in a Charlotte, NC newspaper seeking talented musicians for an audition with a music producer. Remember: this is a film about soundsharking. So many of the auditions in the film are “real.” They were shot behind two way mirrors and even from a camera mounted in a hollowed out microwave oven. Some are sad, some are quite good. Zobel explained that following each audition he and Healy and his crew explained to the musicians what was really happening. Most of them signed disclosures which gave the filmmakers permission to use the footage (Otherwise, of course, they didn’t wind up in the film.) Many of them, it turned out, were quite excited to find out that they were going to be in a movie.
Were they exploited? We’re not meant to laugh at them. This isn’t schadenfreude. But that’s up to the viewer to decide. Hopefully you will have a chance to catch up with GREAT WORLD OF SOUND if you haven’t seen it already. And hopefully we will see you at COMPLIANCE on September 28. Maybe it will anger some people. I’m looking forward to it.
Ben Tucker is the Processing Technician in the Motion Picture Department. He has been employed by George Eastman House since 2003.