On July 15, 1974, 29-year-old Sarasota TV reporter Christine Chubbuck spoke to the camera: “In keeping with Channel 40’s policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts and in living color, you’re going to see another first—attempted suicide.” Chubbuck put a pistol to her head and pulled the trigger.
Chubbuck’s hair-raising on-air suicide has inspired not one but two new films, both being shown later this month at the Sundance Film Festival. One, Christine, is a dramatic recreation of Chubbuck’s final days, with Rebecca Hall (who starred in The Town and Iron Man 3) portraying Chubbuck and director Antonio Campos behind the camera. The second film, Robert Greene's Kate Plays Christine, is a documentary, but far removed from your typical talking-head piece. The movie follows the actress Kate Lyn Sheil (best known for a role on House of Cards) as she prepares to play the role of Chubbuck, visiting Sarasota and attempting to understand her suicide. Greene knows Sarasota well; he participated in the 2014 Sarasota Film Festival, where he showed the similarly styled documentary Actress.
Neither of the two new movies is the first to grapple with Chubbuck’s grisly act; her death loosely inspired the 1976 film Network. But both Sundance films are set in Sarasota, showcasing a bloody and disturbing chapter in the city’s history. We'll be watching.