As ‘Miss World’ proves, documentaries need Hollywood connections

Documentaries can make strange bedfellows, especially when it comes to who is producing them.

Frank Marshall, the man behind the features “Seabiscuit,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “The Sixth Sense,” is one of the producers of the new Lance Armstrong documentary “The Armstrong Lie.”

Forest Whitaker, the star of “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” is a producer of the upcoming animal rights documentary “I Am You.”

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And Stephen Nemeth, the producer of the Oscar-nominated Sundance Film Festival drama “The Sessions,”  is currently producing the documentaries “Pump,” about energy, and “How I Got Over,” a look at homeless women staging a play.

For many of these producers, the driving force is a passion for the subject, and the knowledge that a nonfiction film is almost always going to have more political impact (if not personal rewards) than a narrative feature.  

Given how hard it is to raise money for a documentary, those kinds of white knights—whose Hollywood connections, if not their own deep pockets, may help financing—never have been more crucial. Because the fact is few people besides filmmaker Michael Moore can turn documentaries into box-office hits.

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That’s part of what drove Lati Grobman, best known for producing the horror movie “Texas Chainsaw 3D” and next year’s psychological thriller “Eliza Graves” with Kate Beckinsale, to help produce “Brave Miss World,” which opens this weekend at the Laemmle Town Center in Encino and the Laemmle Monica to qualify for the Academy Awards.

The film chronicles the inspirational journey of Linor Abargil. She was crowned Miss World in 1998, just weeks after the Israeli model was raped by a travel agent after a modeling assignment. Abargil became an advocate for victims of rape, urging them to come forward and tell their stories, and went to law school after winning the Miss World pageant to help prosecute sex crimes.

“I have known the story of Linor for years,” said Grobman, who also is Israeli. “I met her once, before the movie, and she was not just a beauty queen but beautiful, intelligent and strong. When I saw a few clips of her being interviewed about the rape, I cried. I was so honored when I was approached to join the producing team.”

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Cecilia Peck, who directed “Brave Miss World,” said Grobman “called every person she knew and said, ‘You have to give them money whether it is $100 or $1,000.’ She was just unstoppable.”

Grobman was joined in the fundraising and producing ranks by her partner, Christa Campbell and Irving Bauman. Bauman and Grobman came in with critical money when Peck had run out of funds and couldn’t finish the film. “They’re our angels,” Peck said.

In addition to Grobman, Campbell and Bauman, the film’s executive producers include Regina Kullik Scully and Geralyn Dreyfous.

“Rape is much bigger than the statistics,” Grobman said. “Most are not reported, most victims blame themselves or are  ashamed of reporting the crime. Linor gives these girls (and boys) the power to be brave and assures them: The worst already has happened.”



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