Based on a True Story

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In August of 1972, John Wojtowicz entered a Chase bank in Brooklyn with another, younger man, a near stranger he'd met in a bar, Sal Naturile. The two tried to rob the bank, but things went awry, and a 14-hour standoff with the police ensued. Over the course of this ordeal, Wojtowicz made it known that he was robbing the bank to get money for his male lover's sex change operation. The story caught the attention of screenwriter Frank Pierson, who pitched it to director Sidney Lumet with Al Pacino playing the lead. The Hollywood version, of course, turned out to be Dog Day Afternoon, the classic 1970s crime film. But what happened to the real Wojtowicz? Dutch filmmaker Walter Stokman explores the events depicted in the film, and their long-term effects on the people involved, in his documentary, Based on a True Story. Stokman visits the crime scene. The bank is no longer there, but Wojtowicz lives nearby. Stokman interviews former bank employees (one of whom wrote and recorded a song about her experience), cops, and FBI agents, along with Wojtowicz's ex-wife, Carmen Bifulco, Pierson, and Lumet. He pieces together a portrait of Wojtowicz and his sad love affair with transsexual Liz Eden. But he has trouble getting Wojtowicz himself on film. In phone recordings, the ex-con makes escalating demands for money and control of the documentary, and threatens Stokman with both withdrawal of his participation and physical harm. At one point, Wojtowicz tells the filmmaker, "The documentary is not yours. The documentary is mine." Based on a True Story was shown at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival. ~ Josh Ralske, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Based on a True Story

All Critics (2)

  • Stokman's approach is skilfully inventive, visually striking and hugely engaging.

    Nov 25, 2005 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • Deprived of his legacy, the brains behind the failed bank robbery that became Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon gets closer than ever to his fifteen minutes of fame.

    Apr 28, 2005 | Rating: 8.5/10

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