True Stories

Director: James Marsh, 43, Brooklyn


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Synopsis: An elegiac visual poem about Philippe Petit, the Frenchman who tightrope-walked between the Twin Towers on a 250-foot-long cable in August 1974, and the team that helped him.

The backstory: Marsh decided to start this project in the fall of 2006 after his first narrative film, The King, starring Gael García Bernal, failed to make a splash in the United States. “After the bollocks that goes with making a feature, I wanted to do something more immediate that wasn’t involved with the trappings of the industry,” he says, adding that he was influenced by Jules Dassin’s 1955 French heist film Rififi, though “[my characters] have an objective to give something to the world as opposed to steal something.”

Budget: “Well under $2 million,” Marsh says.

Financed by: The BBC, the UK Film Council and the Discovery Channel, which will air the film on television after a theatrical release.

Sundance moment: Winning both the festival’s World Cinema Audience and Jury prizes. “I’m convinced one of the reasons we won was because Philippe and I did question-and-answer sessions together in Park City,” says Marsh. “He’s quite a character.”

Director’s next project: A “dreamumentary” based on the diary of an elderly man in Toronto who transcribed 30 years of dreams he had about the woman he loved.

Return to True Stories or read about other directors: Christopher Bell (Bigger, Stronger, Faster*) Alex Gibney (Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson) Nanette Burstein (American Teen ) Tia Lessin and Carl Deal (Trouble the Water) Marina ZenovichRoman Polanski: Wanted and Desired