The Battle over Citizen Kane

Institute History

  • 1996 Sundance Film Festival


Much has been previously written and documented about the lives and conflicts of two twentieth-century icons, publisher William Randolph Hearst and the prodigy of his time, Orson Welles, so the freshness and revelations in Thomas Lennon’s and Michael Epstein’s new documentary are a very pleas-ant surprise. Even for those viewers who are well aware that Welles “adapted” the life of this first media mogul as the basis for his debut as a filmmaker, the ground retread is tremendously informative and insightful.

With its collage of interviews, newsreel and film clips, and photographic stills and its engrossing narration, The Battle over Citizen Kane emerges as History, a dissection of a momentous individual struggle, and an illuminating look at a time which presages our own concerns and issues. For The Battle over Citizen Kane was not only a struggle over a film; it was a war that foresaw the contemporary struggle between the visual media and the written word. Coherently structured and conceived, Lennon’s and Epstein’s exploration is on one level anecdotal and personal but also a perceptive overview of both the times and particulars of Welles’s and Hearst’s battle royal. Filled with drama, humor, and fascinating characters, The Battle over Citizen Kane is a credible and important contribution to our understanding of the birth of a new era.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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