JT Leroy/Laura Albert, a movie that seems to exist to build upon, glamorize and entertain us with lies. The second, opening this Friday, offers a lot more truth -- which, these days, seems a rarer commodity than one might think in documentary films.
THEO WHO LIVED tells the true story behind the 2012 kidnapping by Syria's al-Qaeda of American journalist Theo Padnos, who was held and tortured, escaped only to be caught, held and tortured some more, for nearly two years. As the title explains and as anyone who remotely followed this story at the time will know, Theo does live and is here now on film to provide us with his tale, as helped along by the documentary's director, David Schisgall (at left), who also acted as screen-writer (which I take to mean that he helped Theo present a more professional scenario).
As Theo (shown in the photos below) points out, and more than once as I recall, it was rather stupid of him, as a not-so-well-known freelancer, to undertake this speculative opportunity to interview fighters inside Syria and then write about them and hope to sell the piece. But he did. And then paid dearly for it. The young men who promised to put him in touch with those he wanted to interview turned out to be al-Qaeda agents only too happy to first beat an American journalist senseless, then turn him over to the powers-that-be.
Jim Foley, is taken prisoner and the two families of the men unite and help each other as best they can over the dark time ahead. Finally, Theo's mom explains how "shoe size" figures into all this, and her remarks proves darkly ironic and telling.
Zeitgeist Films and running 86 minutes, Theo Who Lived opens this Friday, October 7, in New York City at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema; in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the Brattle Theater on October 14; and in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Monica Film Center on Friday, October 21. Click here, then scroll down, to see all currently scheduled playdates -- which I hope, once word-of-mouth starts growing, will increase exponentially.