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January 26, 2013  | by: Kelly Hanelt
Flickr (Sellebrity Movie)

Flickr (Sellebrity Movie)


“There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.” – Ansel Adams

The date: March 11, 2012. The place: SXSW in Austin, Texas. The film: $ellebrity, an incisive and damning documentary about paparazzi culture. Though the film officially premiered last year, it wasn’t released nationwide until just recently. The filmmakers could not have hoped for more serendipitous timing.

On January 1 of this year, Chris Guerra, a paparazzo, was struck by a car and killed while stalking a vehicle belonging to Justin Bieber. The death made national headlines. The grotesque reality, that a life was taken for the sake of a potential picture – one of hundreds published in a weekly edition of People magazine, one of thousands splattered daily across gossip sites like TMZ or Perez Hilton – seemed to go mute.

This is just the most recent, the most resonating of paparazzi incidents. How many stars have taken the illicit photographers to court? How many have taken matters into their own, aggressive hands and ended up being condemned, or even detained? And yet, how many times have we picked up the magazine with the title: “So-and-So gone crazy!” or read the story online? We know it’s perverse, yet we just can’t stop.

Enter $ellebrity. The movie, from producer-director Kevin Mazur (once a rock’n roll photographer himself) minces nothing as it shows us what life is really like on the other side of the flashing camera. A-listers like Jennifer Aniston, Elton John, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Sheryl Crow, and Salma Hayek share personal anecdotes of invasion and exploitation at the snap of a lens. The film provides a horrifyingly vivid look at the life of entrapment these celebrities live. And to think we envy them.

Since when is this okay?Flickr (ForFashionTV)

Since when is this okay?
Flickr (ForFashionTV)

How is this much different than the public outcry of support when Halle Berry lost it on a photographer for lurking outside her daughter’s school? It isn’t. The message is still the same. Only this time, you can’t scrub it off your conscience so easily. $ellebrity targets all tangents in the distribution cycle of celebrity news. Paparazzi themselves weigh in on the issue, as well as informants who help the photogs locate a picture-worthy star. Interpretations of journalism, and the 1st Amendment are wrought and debated thoroughly. No stone is left unturned. And that includes the consumers.

Warning to those who would rather have a weekend of self-indulgence and comfort – go see Parker or Movie 43. $ellebrity seeks to assuage no one. The consumer is as much a perpetrator as the paparazzi.

So, if you want to use this weekend to become enlightened, make a change in your habits, or at least cut down on your People intake, $ellebrity is highly recommended. In addition to limited nationwide showings, it is available for rental through Itunes and Amazon.

Will you dip your toes into the culture clash of $ellebrity this weekend? Or does your interest in paparazzi affairs start and end with the Lady Gaga song?

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