After struggling with depression for many years, Sarasota television newscaster Christine Chubbuck shot herself in the head during a live broadcast on July 15, 1974. The only known recording of what was then the first ever on-air suicide has long been hidden away by the station's owner. Robert Greene's new documentary-whatsit Kate Plays Christine blurs the lines between reality and fiction in the hopes of better understanding those impenetrable truths behind Chubbuck's grim public display.
Central to the process is the great actor Kate Lyn Sheil, who spends much of the film researching Chubbuck's life during pre-production for what's supposed to be a soap opera-style fictional narrative. With only still photographs, an autobiography written by Chubbuck as a teenager, and newspaper reports covering the incident, Sheil begins her physical and psychological transformation into someone new.
Despite getting brown-hued contact lenses, a spray tan and being fitted for a wig that matches Chubbuck's long hair, Sheil continues to feel disconnected from her character. This frustration bleeds through a wide range of interviews conducted with mental health specialists, gun shop owners and eventually Chubbick's former colleagues.
Kate Plays Christine, which opens Friday, Oct. 21, at Digital Gym Cinema, reveals the long-gestating fissures that form between memory and interpretation, something applicable to everyone on camera and arguably those behind it as well. The film's non-traditional structure gives Shiel the opportunity to shift between personas freely, creating a place for both the absent historical figure and engaged artist to painfully co-exist.
By the time Shiel and Greene mount a telling reenactment of Chubbuck's final moments, Kate Plays Christine has carved out a distinct cinematic space between genres and performance methods that confronts our incessant need to bear witness. Much like its tortured subject, the film is an enigma of contradictory interpretations that could explode with rage on a moment's notice.
Answering the Call: The latest programming selection for “The Locals” series is a feature documentary about the civil rights march to Selma in 1965. Screens through Thursday, Oct. 27 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Certain Women: Kelly Reichardt’s intimate drama based on short stories by Maile Meloy features Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern, Michelle Williams and Lily Gladstone.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back: Tom Cruise reprises his role as the unsinkable covert agent who must clear his name after he uncovers a government conspiracy.
Kate Plays Christine: This doc/feature hybrid by Robert Greene and Kate Lyn Sheil tries to uncover the motivations behind the first on-air suicide committed by Sarasota news anchor Christine Chubbuck in 1975.
Keeping Up With the Joneses: Suburbia becomes a war zone in this new comedy from Greg Mottola (Superbad) about a boring couple that discovers their new neighbors are super spies.
Ken Cinema Classics: Mulholland Drive, La Notte, Blood Simple, All the President’s Men and more classic films will be presented at Landmark’s Ken Cinema. Screenings through Thursday, Oct. 27. For more information on specific times visit landmarktheatres.com.
London Town: A teenage girl’s life is changed forever after she meets The Clash frontman Joe Strummer (Jonathan Rhys Myers) in this coming-of-age drama.
A Man Called Ove: A Swedish comedy about an elderly curmudgeon whose grumpy worldview changes for the better after befriending a new neighbor. Opens Friday, Oct. 21 at Angelika Carmel Mountain Cinemas.
Ouija: Origin of Evil: Everyone’s favorite party game is back for the sequel that no one wanted.
San Diego German Film Festival: The 6th annual celebration of German Cinema will feature two days of screenings at the National History Museum and Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. Screens Saturday - Sunday, Oct. 22-23.
One Time Only
Young Frankenstein: Mel Brooks puts his classic comedic spin on the monster stories from 1930s Universal Pictures. Screens at 8 p.m. from Thursday to Saturday, Oct. 20 to 22, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Halloween: A gigantic knife-wielding man stalks an unsuspecting teenage girl on Halloween night, turning her neighborhood into a killing field. Screens at 11:55 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, and 11 a.m. Oct. 23, at the Ken Cinema.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s: George Peppard knows the way to Audrey Hepburn’s heart in this 1961 romantic comedy. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25, at Oceana Coastal Kitchen.
The Thing: A team of scientists uncovers a frozen alien species that can take over a human body. This is arguably the greatest horror film of all time. See it big. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26, at Arclight La Jolla Cinemas.
Beetlejuice: Michael Keaton is legit out of his mind as the ghostly meddler in Tim Burton’s horror comedy. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.