Guest of Cindy Sherman

Guest of Cindy Sherman
Editor’s Note: Doc Soup is a monthly documentary screening programme run by the good folks at Hot Docs. It gives audiences in Toronto (and now Calgary and Vancouver!) their regular doc fix each year from the fall through to the spring, leading up to the Hot Docs festival itself.

Guest of Cindy Sherman (Directors: Paul H-O and Tom Donahue): Paul Hasegawa-Overacker is a surfer and sometime artist who started a public access television show in the early 90s called Gallery Beat. It was an irreverent look at the New York art scene and although he achieved some local notoriety, mainstream success was not really in the cards. But then in 2000, he met and managed to interview notoriously media-shy photographer Cindy Sherman, and not only did it give Gallery Beat a boost but it led to a five-year-long romantic relationship. The problem was that the show was already winding down. The New York art scene was becoming more “corporate” in the 2000s and galleries were less likely to allow scrappy shows like Gallery Beat access to film their openings and other events, especially if they were going to be portrayed in a bad light. After Paul gives up the show, he begins working on other ideas, but is essentially living at Sherman’s house as a “kept man.” This begins to bother him, especially after an infamous event he describes where he was seated several tables away from Sherman at an event with his name card labelled only “Guest of Cindy Sherman.”

The film is essentially a collection of home movies, with footage from old Gallery Beat episodes woven in, and a few more recent interviews likely conducted by co-director Donahue. Sherman, who gave her initial approval to the project when her and Paul were together, has distanced herself from the finished product. I can understand why. Hasegawa-Overacker (or H-O as he prefers) is a slightly obnoxious attention-seeker and the film seems to be his attempt to deal with a seriously bruised ego. Despite the inclusion of a few others who suffer from what he calls “famous girlfriend syndrome,” it’s clear to me that his film is just another attempt to recapture the spotlight, and it’s even sadder that he still has to define himself against his famous now-ex girlfriend. I wonder if Sherman, who generally comes across as a private but generally decent person, took the project as a provocation, and whether it had anything to do with their eventual breakup. H-O isn’t a monster, but he just seems to have a strange sense of entitlement that got under my skin as the film progressed.

While Guest of Cindy Sherman offers an interesting glimpse of the sometimes incestuous world of modern art, and H-O seems like someone I could at least sit down and have a beer with, I still found the end result to be slightly icky.

Guest of Cindy Sherman screens on Wednesday March 11th at the Bloor Cinema. Screenings are at 6:30pm and 9:15pm

Official site of the film
Clips from the film


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