ABOUT THE FILM:
Ethically charged, controversial, and confusing, JT’s life and death sprang open a Pandora’s box of powerful questions about literature and culture, identity and celebrity, and the reality of the society we live in. Fraud? Art? Sociopathy? Complicity? The Cult of JT Leroy is a testament to this bizarre and elaborate story that has captured the attention and fascination of the world’s media, and perplexes to this day.
JT LeRoy was a teen prostitute, addicted to heroin and infected with HIV, when a therapist encouraged him to write his life story. Buoyed by a cadre of celebrities, he published three critically acclaimed books, including "Sarah" and "The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things." But as his fame skyrocketed, the shocking truth emerged: JT was not what he seemed. What followed was a downfall as bewildering as it was tragic. Drawn into LeRoy’s inner circle before the truth came to light, filmmaker Marjorie Sturm was misled like many others. Through intimate interviews with many close to the tarnished figure, Sturm attempts to untangle what really happened, and in the process explores how his deception called into question not only the value and absent authenticity of LeRoy’s writing , but our culture’s complicity with the author’s seductive cult of personality.
"A first rate documentary about a remarkable literary hoax . . . The result is consistently absorbing . . . " -Variety
"This story is an utterly fascinating look at identity, gender, role-playing, fraud, and deception . . . Sturm was there on the ground level before LeRoy's true identity was exposed." -IndieWire
"It’s an analyst’s field day: brimming with projection and transference, Shadow and persona, relative truth and infinite lies. The power of emotional manipulation is staggering, and disturbing to observe . . . what ensures the film’s success is that it’s more than “just” a re-telling of a hoax. Issues of ethics, feminism, ageism, and ingrained commercial biases in the art and literary worlds round out this engrossing exposé. The Cult of JT LeRoy holds up a cracked mirror, probing into the complex cultural, psychological, and socially-reinforced motivations for pulling off, and buying into, such a scam. And why, for a time, it was enormously successful." -Point of View Magazine: Documentary Culture
"A fascinating account . . . holds a mirror to the underside of literary celebrity."- New York Times
"Marjorie Sturm's remarkable and exhaustive documentary sheds new light on the biggest literary fraud of the 2000s (James Frey has nothing on LeRoy). She was there at the outset, her camera filming LeRoy as his stock rose; like a spider, he'd ensnared a group of writers, editors, journalists and agents, who had all fallen (for good reason) for the angelic teen's tragic story . . . he became the voice for a segment of society that had previously been voiceless."-The Globe and Mail
"Part detective story and part postmodern inquiry into the nature of authorship, the film is most interested in the ways that a cold-blooded con artist can prey upon the empathy and good intentions of the unwitting."- KQED
" . . . a provocative, mind-bending documentary that places American culture in a front of a fun-house mirror . . . San Francisco director Marjorie Sturm has crafted a movie that will appeal to both the uninitiated and to those who know how the mystery unravels. What's said- and isn't said- gives us plenty to think about"- San Francisco Chronicle