Two films at Sundance relive Sarasota suicide on live TV
The Sundance Film Festival begins today in Park City, Utah, featuring two selections based on a true-life Sarasota tragedy.
Christine, a feature film starring Rebecca Hall (The Town, Vicky Christina Barcelona), and the documentary Kate Plays Christine are each inspired by the 1974 on-air suicide of Christine Chubbuck, 29, who hosted the community program Suncoast Digest for WXLT Ch. 40.
Apparently disenchanted with the station's turn toward sensationalized stories, Chubbuck shot herself in the head during a live broadcast, reportedly after declaring: "In keeping with Channel 40's policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts, and in living color, you're going to see another first: An attempted suicide."
The incident is considered the first televised suicide, and was reportedly the inspiration for the 1976 television industry satire Network.
Vulture.com included Christine on its list of the 15 most anticipated films at Sundance this year, citing festival insiders calling it "one of the strongest and most provocative movies at the fest." The article noted that director Antonio Campos (Afterschool, Simon Killer) "has never shied from the dark and controversial, and you can't get much darker (than this story)."
Kate Plays Christine takes an unusual cinema verite approach to the subject. Director Robert Greene follows actor Kate Lyn Sheil as she researches her role as Chubbock for a “stylized cheap ‘70s soap opera” version of the story.
Christine debuts Saturday evening, while Kate Plays Christine opens Sunday night. Each film is scheduled to be shown five times during the festival, running through Jan. 31. Neither film has a distribution deal yet but that's what Sundance is all about.