When filmmaker Marjorie Sturm first met author JT LeRoy (“The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things”, “Sarah”) in the early 2000’s and set out to make him the subject of a documentary, entitled THE CULT OF JT LEROY, she had no idea that the project she figured to be an artist profile would eventually turn into something else entirely. She, along with many others, was intrigued by the young transgender, HIV-positive prostitute living on the streets of San Francisco who was quickly drawing attention for his startlingly honest, mature writing.
Everyone loves a good “triumph over tragedy” story. And the life of JT certainly fit that mould. Abandoned as a child by his truck stop prostitute mother, he soon fell into the trap of her lifestyle, turning tricks in order to survive. Eventually, it was on the advice of a psychiatrist who encouraged JT to channel his pain into artistic expression that he turned to writing. And that’s when everyone began to sit up and take notice of this young genius.
Young and troubled genius, that is. Public appearances would see celebrities such as Jeremy Renner, Shirley Manson, Ben Foster and even Nancy Sinatra reading his words, their voices dripping with the awe they felt for him. All while the author, always clad in a blond wig and sunglasses, would hide somewhere amongst the crowd of fans, too shy to take the podium himself.
But not was all as it seemed and over the course of filming, Sturm and all of JT Leroy’s followers were suddenly rocked by a massive scandal that took everyone by surprise, including the psychiatrist who had counseled him over the phone seven days a week for two years.
Sturm’s documentary is completely riveting from start to finish. The abundance of interview and event footage, from both before and after the incident in question ensures her viewers, whether familiar with the story of JT Leroy or not, experience the emotional rollercoaster of what it was to be a member of his cult following.
THE CULT OF JT LEROY will have its International Premiere at the HotDocs Canadian International Documentary Festival, as part of the Nightvision program, which features future cult classics.
Screening Schedule …
Saturday, April 25, 7:00 PM, Scotiabank Theatre
Monday, April 27, 4:15 PM, ROM
Friday, May 1, 4:30 PM, Fox Theatre
Sunday, May 3, 2:00 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
For more information and for tickets, please visit hotdocs.ca.