SXSW Film: $ellebrity

$ellebrity examines the impact that paparazzi and gossip magazines have on celebrities.  The film features several sit down interviews with celebrities including Jennifer Aniston, Salma Hayek, Jennifer Lopez, and Sheryl Crowe.  They talk about how paparazzi and the magazines have affected their personal lives.  While the film might come across to some as celebrities complaining about how their lives are horrible now that they are famous, the film demonstrates very effectively what it is like to be hounded by these paparazzi.

The film opens with a scene of Jessica Simpson getting out of a car to go to a store or restaurant.  The mob of people with their camera flashes is overwhelming.  They do not leave room for her to walk, let alone any personal space.  The scene gives you a very real feel of what it would be like to be hounded like this.

The film is directed and co-produced by Kevin Mazur who is a celebrity photographer himself.  Kevin quickly disassociates himself from being put in the same group as paparazzi.  What I found interesting about his description of himself is that he says he works on the red carpet, not in the camera pit of the red carpet.  He seemed to put a negative connotation on those photographers in the pit.  I think this is unfair as most of them are press photographers like he and were invited to cover the red carpet event.  Red carpet events are press events, officially sanctioned by publicists.  These are not private functions.  Any celebrity who attends has the expectation that they will be photographed and even filmed.  I would not consider any photographer who is at a red carpet to be a member of the paparazzi, but Kevin seems to lump them together.  Kevin does not go more in depth with his background other than to say that he has personal relationships with many celebrities. I wish Kevin had provided more about himself than the few lines he said in the film.  It makes me a little leery of the angle that the film takes.

The film follows one paparazzo around as he works in LA.  The guy works hard, but seems to have the impression that he has the right to do what he does.  I should point out that, legally, he does have the right to do what he does.  He even claims to have brightened Renee Zellweger’s day from the brief encounter they had. While we can blame the paparazzi for their conduct, it is us who read gossip and celebrity magazines and websites that drive this market for intrusive photos.  If we as consumers did not want to see these photos, the paparazzi would not exist.  Celebrities themselves admit to reading the gossip magazines, so they are not helping their cause.

Paparazzi can be very aggressive in their pursuit of celebrities.  They have caused car crashes and injuries.  The most famous example would be the death of Princess Diana which was caused by paparazzi chasing her car on mopeds.  The United Kingdom backed off from their voracious appetite after she died, but it is increasing again.  There are very eerie similarities to how Catherine Middleton and Princess Diana are and were used in the press.

I admit to being a consumer of paparazzi photos.  As soon as I come home from work, I browse the gossip websites.  What this documentary demonstrates is that this business is a vicious cycle.  Consumers demand the photos.  Paparazzi take the photos.  Some celebrities encourage the paparazzi to take the photos.  I do not think the business is going away anytime soon.  Cell phones and digital pictures have made everyone a potential paparazzo, and the internet spreads images like wildfire.  $ellebrity is successful in making you think about what it takes to get that photo you see in People magazine.

I give $ellebrity 3 “angry, bald Britneys” out of 5.

About Sarah Ksiazek

Sarah is a Zookeeper extraordinaire who writes, edits, and is the resident trailer addict for Lost in Reviews. Do not underestimate her snobbery when it comes to trailers. She also owns/runs The Host Movie News which is a fan site for The Host movie adaptation.

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