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This Real Life Tragedy Is The Talk Of Sundance

Sundance is well underway and already one name is dominating the film festival. But it’s not a bright new star or an exciting director that everyone is talking about, it's a woman who died over 40 years ago.

Christine Chubbuck was a Florida TV news reporter who committed suicide live on air in 1974, at the age of 29. Now her story is being told in two films showing at Sundance: Antonio Campos’ Christine starring Rebecca Hall, and the documentary Kate Plays Christine, that blends fact and fiction as the actress Kate Lyn Sheil prepares to portray Chubbuck in a film.

Rebecca Hall’s performance has particularly caught the critics’ attention, with The Guardian pointing out that the British actress’ previous (well-received) work “in no way prepare[s] you for the breadth she displays.” Five star reviews abound.

Chubbuck’s story is both curious and tragic. An ambitious young reporter, she reportedly struggled to maintain personal relationships and despite harbouring feelings for her co-anchor George Ryan (portrayed in Christine by Michael C Hall), as she approached her 30th birthday she lamented to co-workers that she was still a virgin.

Having talked openly about her depression in the lead up to her death, she even made jokes to her colleagues about killing herself live on air.

Chubbuck died after shooting herself on the morning of July 15. According to Campos, the footage was handed to the police before being given to the family who destroyed it. That there are two films about the infamous death at this year’s Sundance is nothing short of remarkable.

In an interview with Indiewire, director Campos suggests that Chubbuck’s story is zeitgeisty in today’s landscape.

“It's just total coincidence [to have two films about her.] But maybe you could read into it in the fact that she is particularly relevant right now, or she seems more relevant than she's ever felt before.”

After premiering this week, Christine is currently seeking distribution.