EXCLUSIVE: One of the hottest genres in filmed entertainment right now – fiction or non-fiction – is scam stories, movies or series that dive into people who present a false front while committing heinous deeds. Think of Inventor Anna or The Tinder scammer.
The new documentary The thief collector, which has just premiered at SXSW, fits into the absorbing category. “Simple and easy: This story is a thought-provoking,” notes director Allison Otto.
The documentary, a takeover title from SXSW, centers on a mystery – the theft of Willem de Kooning’s masterpiece “Woman-Ocher”, which disappeared from the University of Arizona Museum of Art in Tucson in 1985. More than three decades later the painting, worth $ 160 million, was found hanging in Jerry and Rita Alter’s rural home in New Mexico.
“The thief collector takes a deep look at how and why this mildly brought up couple accomplished one of the greatest art strobes of a generation, “reads a synopsis of the film,” exploring the family’s complex dynamics, the contours of crime and justice. how far people will go to weave their own grandiose tales. “
In an instructor’s statement, Otto notes: “An essential part of this story was a book of short stories written by Jerry Alter shortly before his death. Jerry told his nephew that all of these stories were based on his real experiences, and many of the main characters in these stories are sparsely veiled versions of Jerry and Rita themselves.The fantasies embedded in these stories gave us a way to dive into Jerry Alter’s psyche and an opportunity to fuse documentary with a bit of tongue-in-cheek narration. Actors Glenn Howerton and Sarah Minnich did a fantastic job of bringing the magical realism of these stories to life. “
In some respects, Alter’s ordinary life was lived by working as schoolteachers. Yet they privately seem to have seen themselves as heroes and connoisseurs on an epic scale. The only external proof of this was perhaps a propensity for world travel, which only in hindsight proved beyond their limited possibilities. The theft of the Kooning may not have been their only hijacker.
“The crime in this story is the jumping off point,” Otto says, “for a character-driven deep dive into what happens when an obsession becomes unhealthy and when a collector’s self-curated fantasies about their lives collide with reality.”
Cinetic Media handles sales of The thief collector. Otto instructs; producers are Caryn Capotosto, Jill Latiano Howerton and Josh Kunau. The film is written by Mark Monroe and Nick Andert. Executive Producers include Bryn Mooser, Kathryn Everett, Tony Hsieh, Andy Hsieh, Justin Lacob, John Boccardo and Derek Esplin.
Watch the trailer above, which gives a glimpse of “gen-enactors” Glenn Howerton and Sarah Minnich, who set off with a very valuable de Kooning.