Netflix said it will release two documentaries Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold and Gay Talese’s Voyeur, the controversial and debunked story about a Colorado motel owner who spied on guests. Both will premiere at the 55th New York Film Festival and launch globally on Netflix later this year.
The Voyeur’s Motel documentary was being prepped at the same time that Amblin had picked up and was developing the property as a feature film with filmmaker Sam Mendes based on the nonfiction tome. However, the story was later widely debunked as fiction and Amblin since has dropped it from its development slate.
So Voyeur, directed by Myles Kane and Josh Koury, follows 84-year-old journalist Talese as he reports the most controversial story of his career: a portrait of a Colorado motel owner, Gerald Foos. According to the logline: “For decades, Foos secretly watched his guests with the aid of specially designed ceiling vents, peering down from an “observation platform” he built in the motel’s attic. He kept detailed journals of his guests’ most private moments — from the mundane to the shocking — but most of all he sought out, spied on, and documented one thing: strangers having sex. Talese’s insatiable curiosity leads him to turn his gaze to a man accustomed to being the watcher, exploring a tangle of ethical questions: What does a journalist owe to his subjects? How can a reporter trust a source who has made a career of deception? Who is really the voyeur?”
Voyeur is a Netflix original documentary, in association with Impact Partners, produced by Brooklyn Underground Films in association with Chicago Media Project and Public Record.
Also up for Netflix is Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold from actor-director Griffin Dunne, who unearths a treasure trove of archival footage and talks at length to his “Aunt Joan” about the eras she covered and the eventful life she’s lived, including partying with Janis Joplin in a house full of L.A. rockers, hanging in a recording studio with Jim Morrison and cooking dinner for one of Charles Manson’s women for a magazine story.
In the piece, Didion guides audiences through the sleek literati scene of New York in the 1950s and early ’60s, when she wrote for Vogue; her return to her home state of California for two turbulent decades; the writing of her seminal and now-iconic books, including Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album; her film scripts, including The Panic in Needle Park; her view of 1980s and ’90s political personalities; and the meeting of minds that was her long marriage to writer John Gregory Dunne.
“How does one capture such a celebrated and prolific author while delivering something new for audiences to engage with?,” asked Lisa Nishimura, VP Original Documentaries at Netflix. “Griffin does a superb job of bringing us into intimate, one-on-one conversations with his ‘Aunt Joan,’ examining how her struggle shaped her work and how her work helped shape American culture.”
Said director-producer Dunne in a statement: “It is a tremendous honor to have the opportunity to convey the life and work of my aunt, and literary icon Joan Didion. This documentary is a true labor of love, and to partner with Netflix, who will help bring this to a global audience, is more than I could have hoped for when I started on this over five years ago. And to world premiere at NYFF, is just the icing on the cake.”
Mary Recine and Annabelle Dunne also produced.