Have you seen Welcome to Marwen, the new film by acclaimed director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump), or have plans to see it? If early box-office reporting has anything to say about this…probably not. While the film’s trailer gathered early attention for its use of photorealistic CG animation alongside actors as distinguished as Steve Carrell and Leslie Mann, transforming them into living dolls in order to cinematically bring to life the tragic real-life story of Mark Hogancamp’s savage beating by five men for expressing a love of women’s shoes, and his subsequent creation of a fictional town populated by dolls where he produced astonishingly beautiful photographs to help deal with his trauma.
And yet…something didn’t quite feel right. Hogancamp’s story had already been told in the acclaimed documentary Marwencol, as well as an beautifully photographed book Welcome to Marwencol, both of which served as “inspiration” for Zemeckis’ film. I say inspiration because – after having seen (and even reviewing it) – I can say with certainty that little of Hogancamp’s actual story managed to survive the Hollywood machine.
One person who first noticed the movie’s distortions early on – and experienced the ramifications of talking about them soon after, was 17-year-old Efrain Velez. When he’s not producing a podcast about the history of Spain, conveniently called The History of Spain Podcast, he’s sharing his thoughts on the news of the day, pop-culture, and everything else on his personal blog.
Naturally, his posts caught my attention when researching the film, as did his passionate defense of what actually happened to Mark during and after his attack, to both his attackers and his defenders. For this, he was labeled both a “Nazi” and “Nazi sympathizer” (the two being mutually exclusive, I guess) for pointing out the film’s gross inaccuracies and obviously provable distortions of the truth. The film would have you believe the men who savagely attacked Mark were, in fact, Neo-Nazis, complete with swastika tattoos.
Utter hogwash, as was the fact the film depicts all of these terrible men as older and completely white. One of the attackers, an underage 16-year old named “Black Freddy”, was exactly that. You won’t see that in Zemeckis film, or most of the people who actually existed. Not the ones who were male, anyway.
While he’s yet to actually see the movie yet (if he ever will), I wanted to chat with Efrain because what he actually did was something most didn’t – even most of those who did see (and review!) the movie failed to. He dug deep, researched what actually went down, and dared to report his findings online. This is basic Journalism 101, something rare in these trying times of hypersensitive feelings and how the very idea of discovery can seem “problematic” to some.
How many 17-year-olds do you know that would have taken the time to dig into the background of a movie like Welcome to Marwen? How many professional journalists – or movie critics – do you know of that would of done the same? On this podcast you’ll meet someone who qualifies as one of those – and maybe the other in the very near future. Take a listen.
Managing editor (Popzara), frequent radio guest/producer, enemy of stupidity, all-purpose survivor.