There is truth and there are stories. I don’t really believe in true stories. True stories always contain a lot of opinion, assumptions and arbitrary filler and the suppression of appropriate skepticism by fact-gatherers. And I also know how challenging it is to tell a good story. One must never let the truth get in the way of that!
Based on a true story is a more responsible term and is used more often these days, but being based on a true story does not guarantee that a whole lot of truth found its way into the project; let alone made the final cut.
Fiction, meanwhile, can be very truthful when it is built of genuine components of reality; when it unearths hidden truths about our lives. Wisdom, in other words.
Here are some must-see films which are based on true stories and which I believe have something authentic to say:
If you run, the beast catches; if you stay, the beast eats...
23. City of God (2002, Brazil, France)
Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino, Phellipe Haagensen, Matheus Nachtergaele
In 1960 the inner slums of Rio de Janeiro were systematically relocated to suburban sites. This semi-autobiographical story was partly filmed, courageously so, within one such project: the particularly dangerous and unlawful Cidade de Deus (City of God), and largely cast with its actual inhabitants. The result is a deeply moving, unsettling and impactful exploration of real-life youth and desperation.
City of God earned a plethora of awards and Time magazine names it in their top 100 films of all time.
Writesr: Paulo Lins (Almost Brothers), Bráulio Mantovani (Elite Squad)
Directors: Fernando Meirelles (The Constant Gardner), Kátia Lund (All the Invisible Children)
IMDB rating: 8.7
Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, Harve Presnell
This story was more or less drawn from a collection of events from within and around the lives of personal fave filmmakers Ethan and Joel Coen in frozen Minnesota to which they are native. It comes off as a cohesive (and compelling) single narrative loaded with style, edgy dark humor and true-to-life local quirkiness. I could watch this a hundred times and not stop laughing. Macy and McDormand (who won best actress) are especially delightful. The Coens are masters of drawing the inherent absurdity out of typical behavior and this is probably their most celebrated example.
Writers/Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men)
IMDB rating: 8.2
25. The Road to Wellville (1994, USA)
Matthew Broderick, Anthony Hopkins, Bridget Fonda, Camryn Manheim, John Cusack, Michael Lerner, Dana Carvey, Colm Meaney
This is just a big bowl of laughs as a very talented group of writers, director and actors team up to poke fun at Dr. John Harvey Kellogg; king of breakfast cereal and all-around medical nut-bar, and his legendary sanitarium in Battle Creek Michigan at the turn of the twentieth century. There is an engaging rhythm and pace to the flick; a sort of roller coaster ride which routinely pushes us to the edge of hilarity and plausibility.
Kellogg had a host of moral priorities around health, and so good taste was not necessarily his topmost priority in the making of his corn flakes. Of course the same might be accused of the excellent Alan Parker in the making of the film! Here is a rather naughty scene (If you are generally beleaguered by sexual superstition then you’ll prefer to skip it!):
Britain’s Den of Geek places Road to Wellville in their Top Fifty Underappreciated Comedies of the Last Thirty Years.
Dr. Kellogg: Your stool, Mr. Lightbody, quite frankly is pathetic! Formless, mushy and foul-smelling!
Mr. Lightbody: How should they be?
Dr. Kellogg: My own stools, Sir, are perfect! They are gigantic and have no more odor than a hot biscuit!
Writers: T. C. Boyle (Chicxulub), Alan Parker
Director: Alan Parker (Evita, Mississippi Burning)
IMDB rating: 5.7
26. Shine (1996, Australia)
Geoffrey Rush, Noah Taylor, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Lynn Redgrave, John Gielgud
Rush took the Oscar for best actor, one of seven of the film’s nominations. You must not miss this uplifting experience!
Cecil Parkes: The Rach Three? It's monumental.
David: It's a mountain. The hardest piece you could everest play.
Cecil Parkes: No one's ever been mad enough to attempt the Rach Three.
David: Am I mad enough, professor? Am I?
Director: Scott Hicks (Snow Falling on Cedars)
IMDB rating: 7.7Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Fs7hfqCNFw