Eye on the Oscars: Documentaries

COUNTRY: U.K.

DIRECTOR: James Marsh helmed “Wisconsin Death Trip.”

SUBJECT: Performance artist Philippe Petit makes a daring (and illegal) high-wire walk between the World Trade Center towers in 1974.

FINANCING: BBC and U.K. Film Council funded the development; Discovery Films saw it through production.

DISTRIB: Magnolia picked up the Sundance multiprize winner shortly after the fest and opened to strong per-screen numbers in July. Still playing in New York City.

HELMER COMMENTS: “Obviously, if there was footage, we would have seen it many, many times already, so I was never troubled in the least by having just stills, and it felt to me like that’s kind of what it was — he stops time and defies gravity,” Marsh says. “In fact, there’s an ironic story about the absence of footage. His accomplice, Jean-Louis Blondeau, had a film camera up on his tower, but by the time (Petit steps off the ledge), he’s pulled this heavy cable in for four hours and his arms are shot to pieces and he can’t physically pick up the camera to shoot the 16mm footage. It’s too heavy. Even the first photographs are slightly out of focus because he’s trembling so much.”

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