The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Subverted: Real Life Women in Documentary Film

Posted March 1, 2012

Panel #46
Sunday, March 4, 10:30am
Columbia Art League, 207 S. Ninth St.

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a term coined by critic Nathan Rabin, has become a too-common caricature in contemporary indie film. How do documentary filmmakers navigate these common tropes to deal with gender? With Lauren Greenfield (Queen of Versailles), Jason Tippet (Only the Young), Valerie Veatch (Me @ The Zoo) and the director of Secret Screening Gold. Moderated by The Onion’s Nathan “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” Rabin himself.

Nathan Rabin

The first head writer for The Onion’s A.V. Club, Rabin is the author of the memoir The Big Rewind: A Memoir Brought To You By Pop Culture (2009) as well as My Year of Flops: The A.V. Club Presents One Man’s Journey Deep into the Heart of Cinematic Failure (2010). He also appeared on the short-lived film review show Movie Club with John Ridley. A Chicago native, Rabin graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1999, and cut his film criticizing teeth on the stacks and stacks of VHS tapes at Four Star Video Heaven. Rabin coined the phrase “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” in reference to Kirsten Dunst’s character in Elizabethtown.

Lauren Greenfield (Queen of Versailles)

Acclaimed photographer Lauren Greenfield graduated from Harvard in 1987 and began her career as an intern for National Geographic. Since 1991, her photographs have been regularly published in magazines including the New York Times Magazine, Time, Vanity Fair, People, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Harper’s, Marie Claire, and The Guardian. She is considered a preeminent chronicler of youth culture as a result of her groundbreaking book projects Girl Culture and Fast Forward. Lauren’s first feature-length documentary film, Thin, aired on HBO, and is accompanied by a photography book of the same name. The feature-length documentary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006 and was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Direction in 2007. Lauren comes to True/False with her second feature-length documentary film, Queen of Versailles, on the heels of a 2012 Sundance premiere, where she picked up the Best Directing prize in the US Documentary Competition.

Jason Tippet (Only the Young)

Jason Tippet received his bachelors degree from the California Institute of the Arts, where he directed his first documentary short, Thompson, with his directing partner Elizabeth Mims. Thompson went on to win the Jury Award at South by Southwest in 2009 and play at Sundance and a handful of other festivals. Only the Young is his first feature film.

Christian Bonke (Secret Screening Gold)

Christian Holten Bonke attended the National Film School of Denmark and has a background in the music industry. Bonke’s former projects have all been close personal portraits of everything from a drummer´s midlife crisis to teens in love and a yuppie´s wake up call. The films all have an almost-fictional narrative and often contain no interviews, which has become a distinguishing characteristic of Danish documentary film. This is his first feature film.

Valerie Veatch (Me @ The Zoo)

Valerie Veatch is a promising young filmmaker who holds a degree in Critical Theory and Media Studies from the New School for Social Research. She has been messing around with video cameras since the age of seven, when she and her sister made stop-motion shorts by roping in her friends and neighbors as crew members. Her short film, Revolution in Three Acts, examines methods of social and political agitating. Me @ The Zoo is her first feature documentary. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and will soon air on HBO.