Tag Archives: Errol Morris

Tabloid: tittle-tattle and a release date

Tabloid: one of many salacious headlines

In this era of eras for the redtops, it is somewhat fitting that Errol Morris’ terrific documentary Tabloid, which addresses with sly brilliance the bizarre tale of Joyce McKinney and the “manacled mormon”, is to be released in UK cinemas on Friday 11 November 2011.

When I first saw (and greatly enjoyed) Tabloid at the 54th BFI London Film Festival last year, I wrote a brief, inoffensive summary and recommendation on this blog, and thought no more of it. I awoke the next day, however, to find in my comments section an 800-word screed (more than twice the length of my original post) from a poster by the name of TRUTHTELER, peppered with legal threats and decorated liberally with that hallmark of the outraged, CAPITAL LETTERS!

Highlights, of which there were many, included:

“Get your suit pressed, you’re going to court . (And PS she has sued creeps like you before and always wins damages into thousands of dollars, so we hope you have lots of dough to pay it off. Be sure and bring a “rape” charge sheet to court with you. (Hint Bright Boy: Since Joyce has never been charged with it– one doesn’t exist, HA HA, and you will have egg on your face.”

“…the police in America are LOOKING INTO BURGLARY CHARGES AGAINST THE PRODUCER who stole her photos and then tried to fore her to sign a paper to absolve himself of the burglary–He also told her her dog would die if she didn’t sign it, and was directly involved in cruelly paying a man who helped to get her service dog tortured and killed.”

After the initial shock, my mood turned to one of slightly baffled amusement. Plus, it’s still the post on my blog which has attracted the highest number of hits! It seems I was not the only one to be targeted. Legions of other and critics and reviewers were targeted with similar vitriol (see here, here and here for further examples).

Even Morris himself was not safe from unexpected reproach. At the 2010 New York Documentary Festival, Joyce McKinney (with dog in tow) made a surprise onstage appearance, and took the opportunity to criticize the film while the bemused director looked on, hands stuffed awkwardly in pockets. McKinney followed this up with a succession of cameos at pre-release screenings across the country to get her side of the story across.

This chain of events and publicity has undeniably served to stir up a great deal of interest in the film, and has sparked debate in the critical/blogosphere, with some going so far as to suggest this rather outré activity has been part of some huge meta-Machiavellian marketing plan. Recently, film critic Roger Ebert revealed on his site the poster that Morris was originally going to use for the film’s theatrical release (a PDF of a larger, legible version of the poster can be accessed by clicking HERE):

The original poster for Tabloid, featuring a long, long letter to the director from Joyce McKinney

The poster reproduces, word-for-word, the text of a letter allegedly received by Morris from McKinney, which is very similar in tone to the posts that startled so many unsuspecting bloggers. Up until the above poster surfaced, it seemed impossible to discern for certain if the missives came directly from McKinney, but the similarity in tone between the words on the poster and the blog posts would seem to suggest that McKinney either had a lot of time on her hands, or in some way has been a central cog in a long-con marketing game that House of Games-era David Mamet would have been proud of.

Nobody knows for certain, but expect a raft of similar activity closer to the time of the film’s UK release. This one could, and almost certainly will, run and run.

Here is the video of Joyce McKinney unexpectedly crashing the stage at DOC NYC 2010. Believe me, this is a must-watch:

And here is the film’s theatrical trailer: