In this moving and wildly innovative film, director Lynn Hershman Leeson tells the terrifying story of how one man's personal tragedy turns into persecution by a paranoid and overzealous government.
Art professor Steve Kurtz's nightmare began on May 11, 2004, when he awoke to find his wife Hope dead of a heart attack. Paramedics responding to his 911 call, suspicious of petri dishes and scientific paraphenalia in his house (materials for an art project on genetically modified food) contacted the FBI, and soon his world was turned upside down. Only hours after his wife s tragic death he was suddenly a murder suspect, an accused bioterrorist, and a pariah to all but his closest friends.
Told through a unique blend of interviews, documentary footage, and reconstructed scenes starring Tilda Swinton, Thomas Jay Ryan, and Peter Coyote, Hershman s critically-acclaimed film is a sophisticated, look at how the traumatic events of 9/11 altered American society and undermined its long-held values.
Extras on the DVD include: Theatrical Trailer, Filmmaker Interviews, Outtakes and Filmmaker Biography.
Though Lynn Hershman Leesons third feature tackles weighty issues like national security and privacy rights, love plays an equal part in the picture. Three years after 9/11, Buffalo-based artist Hope Kurtz (played by Oscar winner Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
), dies from a heart attack. Her husband of 27 years, Steve (Henry Fool
's Thomas Jay Ryan), yearns to mourn, but authorities notice bacteria-filled Petri dishes around their house and take him in for questioning (the Kurtz's subject was genetically modified food). Next, the FBI confiscates his computers, his cat--even his wife's body--before charging him and colleague Robert Ferrell (Peter Coyote) with bioterrorist intentions, culminating in indictments for mail and wire fraud. As in Hershman Leeson's previous projects with Swinton, Conceiving Ada
, science and art co-mingle. This time, though, she merges interviews, dramatic recreations, and Kurtz himself, which initially proves distracting--he looks nothing like Ryan--but his first-person testimony adds weight to the actor's believable performance. Though the director grapples with big ideas, she never loses sight of the people behind them. Her intentionally one-sided portrait of an insular art world flirts with pretension, but for those truly concerned about the issues at hand--and the humans affected by them--Strange Culture
will surely break a few hearts. At the time of filming, Kurtz's case remained unresolved, but the opening title conveys both optimism and respect: "This film is dedicated to Hope." Extras include an interview with the subject and a comprehensive profile of the filmmaker. --Kathleen C. Fennessy