Protagonist

Director: Jessica Yu
Screenwriters: Jessica Yu

Institute History

  • 2007 Sundance Film Festival

Description

When does a man become his own tragedy? Inspired by Euripides, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Jessica Yu (Breathing Lessons) boldly addresses the essence of storytelling by creating a documentary about drama itself. Focusing on the trajectories of four lives, Yu poses a crucial question: what happens when people are driven to such extremes that they become the thing they most abhor?

Exposition, rising action, turning point, falling action, denoument: this is classic story structure, famously outlined by Aristotle, employed by the great Greek tragedians, and taught to endless would-be writers in the centuries since. Of central importance is the protagonist, the character in the process of change. In her study of man and fate, Yu centers on the drama of one person in transition.

Through vérité techniques and interviews interwoven with extraordinary puppetry functioning as the classic Greek chorus, the lives of these seemingly unrelated men—a former German terrorist, an "ex-gay" evangelist, a bank robber, and a martial-arts student—unfold in riveting detail as each creates a new hell in his attempts to escape from an old one. Whether famous, infamous, or simply anonymous, each lives out the eternal drama of how we control—or don't control—our own destinies.

— Cara Mertes

Screening Details

Credits

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