Why Are We So Obsessed with Elizabeth Holmes? Alex Gibney Unpacks His New HBO Documentary The Inventor

Documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney is a skilled dissector of scandal. The subjects of his films have included the likes of Enron, Scientology, Eliot Spitzer, Lance Armstrong and Wikileaks. He was once dubbed a “biographer of bad men.” When asked how his latest subject fits into that oeuvre, Gibney jokes that he’s “branched out.” To what? “To women.”

The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, set to debut on HBO on March 18, is Gibney’s take on Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, who rose to spectacular prominence in Silicon Valley as she promised to revolutionize healthcare with her startup’s trailblazing blood tests — and then fell from grace with equal vigor when it turned out that those blood tests were deeply flawed and misrepresented. This revelation seeped out only after millions in investors’ money had already been spent and, crucially, after members of the public had already been exposed.

Holmes, whose estimated net worth went from $ 4.5 billion to zero after the fall, has been the subject of extensive reporting. There’s a book. There’s a podcast. A feature film starring Jennifer Lawrence is in the works. TIME spoke to Gibney about why we just can’t seem to get enough of Holmes, how her gender plays into the story and what to make of powerful people who continue to defend her.

How does Holmes fit in alongside subjects you’ve covered?

There’s a pattern. One part is the end justifies the means. Another is what that allows the human mind to do, in terms of being able to convince yourself to rationalize misdeeds in the service of a higher goal. Over time that’s corrupting. The police call it noble cause corruption: The bad cop can’t get the killer, so he plants some dope on him. That’s the through line. That’s what I see in Elizabeth that I’ve seen in other people, like [Wikileaks’] Julian Assange or Jeff Skilling at Enron.

One of the messages I got from the film was that what led her to do this — though in an extreme — is in all of us.

I agree with that. Otherwise we inhabit a world in which there are good people and there are bad people. And then to prevent the next Elizabeth Holmes, you just have to make sure that a bad person doesn’t ever become the head of a company, right? We’re all capable of doing bad things under certain circumstances. So what are those circumstances? And what is the psychological mechanism that allows us to go there? When we come across as a kind of charismatic, messianic figure, sometimes it’s part of a larger package that’s hiding more damaging stuff.

Why as a culture are we so obsessed with scammers, especially ones who seem to get their comeuppance?

It’s two sides of the same coin. Elizabeth is an extreme version of who we all are, right? I think there’s a part of us that likes to break the rules and likes to think we can put one over on people. So there’s part of us that is intrigued — or even admires — people who do it. But then we always want to see them punished, because we know it’s wrong. And also because we’re angry. Somebody like Elizabeth gets our dander up because we’re being lied to. She’s looking at us and saying ‘Support me because I am a woman in male-dominated Silicon Valley and I’m doing something great for the world.’ And we want to say, ‘Yeah, we’re behind you. 100%.’ And then to learn what she’s actually doing is putting patients’ lives at risk and not letting anybody know — well, then we should be angry, right?

There are so many emotions involved as onlookers. Embarrassment. A sort of jealousy. Schadenfreude.

We live in the jackpot society. Sunday, we’re all going to win the lottery, right? And the one great thing about Silicon Valley is you have a brilliant idea and the next thing you know, you’re a billionaire. Cha-ching! So yeah, we’re jealous. But then we see — oh, she didn’t really get there by dint of working hard. She got there by lying.

And what about that tech context? That industry where people become instant millionaires can feel exclusionary.

There’s a kind of feedback loop that justifies the enormous amount of money that the geniuses at the head of these companies deserve. Of course Zuckerberg should be worth billions because he’s a genius. Steve Jobs? Genius. The fact is we’re responsible for Mark Zuckerberg’s money. He’s taking our data and he’s monetizing it. That ecosystem rewards thinking about the ‘lone genius’ when it’s not really true.

You mentioned Holmes’ gender as a reason people wanted to see her succeed. How important is gender in this story?

It’s at the heart of the story in some ways. One of the reasons for making a parallel to [Thomas] Edison in the film was the ‘fake it ’til you make it’ mentality. Before Edison ultimately does invent the incandescent light bulb, he fakes demonstrations. The other is that he was kind of the first celebrity entrepreneur. You sell the Edison Company by selling Edison. Elizabeth is in that mold and one of the things she’s selling is this vision of her as the alluring but ascetic female entrepreneur in male-dominated Silicon Valley. That’s a vision we all want to embrace, and I think people were invested — and I use that term intentionally — because that was such an appealing idea.

When did Holmes really cross a red line? When the tests went live at Walgreens locations or before then?

Yes. I don’t think there’s a story in this if she doesn’t go live with the tests before they’re ready. Otherwise it’s just R&D. So she doesn’t get it right and investors lose some money, but nobody’s lives are put at risk. Up until that point, you could argue that she really was in the tradition of ‘fake it ’til you make it.’ Ultimately she goes down because she crosses an ethical line that’s just as strong for men as for women, which is you don’t put people’s lives at risk just for some cash, or for some glory.

Did you try to get Holmes to take part in the film?

One of the film’s producers met with her very early on for about five hours, but we were unsuccessful in persuading her to participate. She was very much probing for where we were. And she kept saying she would participate once the company was back on its feet — that there was a very promising next chapter coming. It never came.

How much can we analyze the morality at play without hearing explanations straight from her?

It’s a good question. Late in the film, we use a clip from an interview she did with Maria Shriver. I see it as a really important clue. What she says at the time is more or less ‘I was shocked’ [about there being issues with the blood tests]. She doesn’t say, ‘It’s terrible. I feel terrible because I am responsible.’ Not even close. She’s trying to convince us that really she didn’t know. Well, we know from everything we’ve seen up to that point that’s a lie.

What is that telling us on a deeper level about her?

On a deeper level it means that she’s not willing to admit to herself that there’s anything more important than her own success.

Though you didn’t interview her, there’s incredible footage of Holmes in the film, including videos of all-hands meetings at the company. Where did you get all the footage that you used?

Ironically, much of the footage we ended up getting we got because Theranos was filming themselves. Some of the materials were licensed, some of them were outtakes from other filmmakers who were going in to do portraits of her. But a lot of material we got, including the making of the ads, the long interviews with Elizabeth looking sort of doe-eyed, and those company meetings, that’s all Theranos footage.

How did you get Theranos to give you footage?

They didn’t give it to us. We found people who had been on the inside who had copies, who were willing to leak it to us.

What do you make of people like venture capitalist Tim Draper, who backed her and are still defending her?

He was quoted recently as saying ‘This attack and vicious rumor mill to try to take down Elizabeth Holmes has been a real setback for humanity.’ He’s obsessed with this idea that it’s unfair for us to take down the risk-takers. But that’s a kind of fetishism of the entrepreneur that suggests entrepreneurs exist outside of society, that we should coddle them even when they put people at risk. What kind of enabling is that? So screw Tim Draper. He’s just dead wrong.

What would you say is the moral of this story?

I always get reluctant to say there’s a single takeaway. To me, there’s a context in terms of the culture of Silicon Valley and some of the things we accept that maybe we shouldn’t. There’s a human psychological dimension that I think is really important, in terms of how to think about what people tell us, particularly people in power. The focus of the film is Elizabeth. She’s the haunting figure at the center who was able to fool us all, in part because she was able to fool herself, which enabled her to lie better. It’s something that we need to be able to recognize in people, so that the next time one of these things comes around, we don’t just go looking for corner-cutting or, at its worst, fraud, from people who seem to be malevolent from the outside. We know that it’s possible from people who seem to have the highest ideals.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.


Entertainment – TIME

ENTERTAINMENT DEAL UPDATE:

Bonnie Cashin Archivist Considering Documentary and Other Projects

As the heir to Bonnie Cashin’s archives, Stephanie Lake is the last person who needs to be reminded about the designer’s lasting influence on American fashion.
Rather than reside in the I-told-you-so corner, Lake is actively trying to inform current and future generations about how Cashin’s aesthetic continues to appear in certain designer collections.
Last month’s Diet Prada post, alleging JW Anderson’s appropriation of a Bonnie Cashin design was not the impetus for her proactive approach but a coincidence. Lake said Monday, ”My husband and I are constantly considering what our roles are and how we can best serve Bonnie’s legacy. It’s a constant theme in our lives. With JW Anderson, it did pop up just as we were getting very focused on the film. It just happened to be a coincidence as we were talking about needing to focus our energies on the next big project. It amplified what we were thinking about the timing being right.”
A JW Anderson spokesman said, “Jonathan has always been inspired by postmodernist fashion and mentioned Bonnie as an inspiration backstage after the show in London.”
Having been approached by a major documentary filmmaker last year about the prospect of a Cashin-themed film, Lake is mulling over

Follow WWD on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook.

Read More…
WWDWWD

FASHION TIPS:

Trailer For Aretha Franklin Documentary Will Give You The Chills [VIDEO]

A riveting trailer for the upcoming Aretha Franklin documentary, Amazing Grace, was released this week and shows the soul songstress in perfect form.

The documentary follows the story leading up to a never before seen 1972 church concert with Franklin as the main act. The Queen of Soul took the stage at the New Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles and literally brought the house to salvation by the looks of things. Franklin who was 29 at the time, was riding high on her solo career, propelled by the effortless of her iconic voice.

“She can sing anything, anything! My sister, Aretha Franklin,” the presenter says as Franklin walks out onto the carpet wearing a glistening white full beaded gown and a tightly coiffed afro.

Franklin’s performance of the popular hymnal was part of a series of recordings on the same day, including “Mary, Don’t You Weep” and “Climbing Higher Mountains.” The songs from the two-night show were compiled into an album and remains the best-selling live gospel album of all time, according to Esquire.

The footage, directed by Directed by Sydney Pollack and compiled by Alan Elliot, will be finally be released after almost 50 years of mounting technical and legal issues.  It first premiered to rave reviews at the DOC NYC festival in 2018, following  Franklin’s death in August.

The movie hits select theaters on April 5, 2019.

[ione_media_gallery id=”717179″ overlay=”true”]
Entertainment – Black America Web

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Everything We Learned from the Michael Jackson Documentary ‘Leaving Neverland’

 

Photo of JACKSON FIVE and Michael JACKSON

Source: Ebet Roberts / Getty

The premiere of ‘Leaving Neverland’ on HBO was shocking and jaw-dropping with all of the allegations that we made against the King of Pop.  Two alleged victims Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck give a detailed account of their time with Jackson.  Below we give you the abbreviated version of everything we learned from the documentary ‘Leaving Neverland’.

Wade Robson was born in Brisbane Australia and became a fan of Michael Jackson in the days of Triller.  Like any kids across the world, Wade began to dance and sing like Jackson perfecting his moves.  At five-years-old Wade entered a dance contest where the winner would get to meet Jackson at one of his upcoming concerts in Australia.  Wade won the dance contest and met Jackson backstage after the show.  Jackson invited Wade to join him on stage at his next show the following night.  Just as promised Jackson pulled Wade on stage to dance with him.  The next day Wade and his mother go to Jackson’s hotel hoping to give him a thank you letter.  One of Jackon’s staff members saw them and told Jackson who then invited them to his room.  Wade claims they spent two hours with Jackson visiting.

Two years later Wade had joined a dance company and made a visit to the United States.  Wade’s family successfully tries to contact Jackson while in the U.S. and invites them to visit his home Neverland for the weekend.  The Robson family planned on visiting the Grand Canyon but Wade wanted to stay with Jackson and his parents let him.  Wade spent five days with Jackson while his family was gone.  During this time is when Wade claims his sexual relationship with Jackson began including oral sex.  When the Robson’s returned to pick up Wade, he didn’t want to go.  So they extended their time at Neverland, where Wade claims the sexual abuse continued every night.

The Robeson’s returned to Australia but still kept in communication with Jackson.  After some time had passed Jackson invited Wade back to participate in the marketing campaign for his shoe line with LA Gear.  The campaign would take six weeks to complete.  Wade’s mother came with him.  Jackson asked Wade’s mother to let him stay for a year with him but she said no and allowed him to say with Jackson longer before going back to Australia.

After some time passes Wade’s parents split up.  Mrs. Robeson decides that she and Wade are moving to Los Angeles in hopes to be with Jackson.  When they get to LA they immediately notice that the relationship between Wade and Jackson isn’t the same.  Jackson invites Wade to be in his ‘Black or White’ video but when they showed up to set they met MaCaulay Cogan.  Wade felt MaCaulay had taken his place as Jackson’s “best friend.”  Over time, Jackson still visits Wade and the alleged sexual abuse continues.  Wade ask Jackson to go on his upcoming tour with him but Jackson declines, taking another young boy with him named Brett Barnes.

 Continued on the next page

Entertainment – Black America Web

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Michael Jackson Documentary Revives Lurid Claims, Imperiling His Thriving Estate

Mr. Jackson died deep in debt. Now his estate is worth billions. Will the new film, “Leaving Neverland,” focused on two men’s accounts of sexual abuse, damage his posthumous career?
NYT > Arts

SPECIAL TRAVEL DEAL UPDATE:

Get the best rate — Your Rate. The best deal, plus all the benefits you love when you book directly with IHG.

Black Woman Creates Documentary Setting Record Straight About ‘Green Book’ Movie

Yoruba Richen, an award-winning documentary filmmaker has a new documentary out that tells the true story about black people and the infamous Green Book motorist handbook.

Richen is the writer and director of The Green Book: Guide to Freedom. It tells the story behind the infamous ‘Green Book’ that African Americans used as a guide to travel safely throughout the Jim Crow-era South.

According to a press release about the film:

“The film tells the story of the rise the African American middle class in Detroit, journeys to the oasis of Idlewild (a vacation community in western Michigan where blacks were able to retreat to their “Black Eden” in peace) and the iconic A. G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham, Alabama—a pivotal location in the civil rights movement. The story of The Green Book embodies a quintessential American contradiction—while its creation speaks to the horrors of racial injustices in our past, its success shows the resolve of African Americans to thrive in a world that seemed to root for their failure by means of discrimination, violence and ignominy.”

In an interview with Black Enterprise, Richen discussed her motivation to create the film.

When did you start work on the Smithsonian Channel documentary?
I was approached about the film in the summer of 2017 by the production company Impossible Factual who had the idea to do a documentary surrounding the Green Book. I didn’t know about the Green Book at first but was immediately interested and intrigued to get involved once I learned more about it. It was a story that hadn’t been told before with the opportunity to explore so many themes and storylines within the black experience.

What was your primary motivation to get involved?
I’m a filmmaker who’s interested in exploring complexity and uncovering stories that haven’t been told. The Green Book was such an interesting and important part of our history and a deeper dive into its creation and background hadn’t been told before. As we were filming, even more themes emerged and I was excited to see how that shaped and developed the final documentary you’ll see on the Smithsonian Channel.

Green Book

Documentarian Yoruba Richen


What are two major things that you think people will learn from watching?

Viewers will learn about the importance of the automobile to the African American community and how it was both similar and different to white Americans. The automotive industry played a pivotal role in creating jobs for African Americans and attracting them to settle down in various states throughout the U.S. The automobile also symbolized the quest for freedom and mobility, which it did also for the African American community, but they also had specific challenges to obtain those things. The Green Book was also not used to navigate potential threats of violence but provided a tool to find vacations and recreation spots which African Americans have been seeking and creating forever now.

Do you think the documentary will have any impact on the movie winning the Oscars?
I truly can’t say if the documentary will have an impact on the film winning but I do hope the fiction film will bring attention to our version and perspective of the Green Book and that they will watch the documentary!

The Green Book has been the focus of much attention since the release of the Green Book Hollywood movie. The movie tells the story of musician Don Shirley and his white chauffeur and later actor, Frank Anthony “Tony Lip” Vallelonga as they travel through the Southern United States for an eight-week concert tour Shirley is scheduled to play. Vallelonga, who is from New York, is given a copy of the Green Book, a guide that actually existed, that instructed African American travelers on where to find safe havens throughout the deeply-segregated ’60s South. It is based on a real-life story. The movie is a contender for several Academy Awards this year, including Best Picture, Best Actor for star Viggo Mortenson, and Best Supporting Actor for co-star Mahershala Ali.

The relatives of Don Shirley have since come out blasting the Hollywood movie version for what they call its lies about the relationship between Shirley and Vallelonga.

Richen’s documentary, The Green Book: Guide to Freedom will premiere on The Smithsonian Channel Monday, Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. ET/PT and is available to stream on the Smithsonian Channel app. Watch a trailer of the film here.

 

The post Black Woman Creates Documentary Setting Record Straight About ‘Green Book’ Movie appeared first on Black Enterprise.

Lifestyle | Black Enterprise

EMPLOYMENT SEARCH UPDATE:

“Let Him Rest” Jermaine Jackson Speaks Out Against Leaving Neverland Documentary

Concert of the The Jacksons

Source: picture alliance / Getty

Earlier this month, we reported that there was a Michael Jackson documentary that would seek to expose the alleged child victims of his sexual assault during Jackson’s infamous slumber parties.

Since then, the documentary was screened at the Sundance Festival. The reviews have trickled in and from what I’ve seen people have been traumatized. So much so that one Twitter user said there were counselors outside of the theater to speak to audience members who were effected by the things they saw in the documentary.

The documentary features testimony from two men Wade Robson and James Safechuck over the course of four hours.

And as you might assume, the Jackson family hasn’t been too pleased about the documentary’s release. In a recent interview, Jermaine Jackson, Michael’s older brother and former bandmate, shared his thoughts on the project, likening it to a public lynching.

“Wade [Robson] changed his story that he maintained before and after Michael’s death. He tried to shop a book deal, no publisher would touch it. He even sued the estate for 1.5 billion, it was tossed out of court. He wanted to go out for the head choreography part for Cirque du Soleil. He was turned down from that. What was left for him to do was to do a documentary and spew out these nonsense statements.

Those were slumber parties. And what they didn’t tell you was there were little girls there, even with their parents, their uncles and they were sitting down watching movies.

We lost Michael. We lost a father. We’re still mourning. We lost a lot. Just leave us alone. Leave him alone. Let him rest please. Let him rest. He deserves to rest.”

Later, Jackson tweeted this.

In response to Jackson, Dan Reed, the director of Leaving Neverland, said he totally understands why the Jackson family would want this project to go away.

“They have a very precious asset to protect. Every time a song plays, a cash register goes ‘ka-ching.’ It doesn’t surprise me that they’ve come out fighting in defense of their asset.”

You can watch Jermaine’s interview defending his brother in the video below.

MadameNoire

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

R. Kelly’s Streaming Numbers Rise After Documentary

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nielsen Music says streaming numbers for R. Kelly have nearly doubled after a recent documentary accused the R&B singer of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls.

The Lifetime docu-series “Surviving R. Kelly” detailed abuse allegations against R. Kelly in six episodes, but the singer’s streaming numbers grew significantly during and after the series. His music streamed 870,316 times on Jan. 2, the day before the series premiere, but Nielsen said Thursday Kelly’s music garnered nearly 1.73 million streams after the sixth episode aired Jan. 6.

Women cheered him on at his recent birthday party in Chicago, where he told the crowd ‘I don’t give a f-ck!’

Kelly averaged more than 955,600 streams in the last week of 2018. He averaged more than 1.5 million streams from Jan. 3-6.

He recently released a new single and still has over 1.5 million followers on Instagram. Kelly, has, though disabled comments on his posts.

The singer has for years faced allegations he sexually abused women, but the 52-year-old hasn’t been charged and he’s denied any wrongdoing.

HEAD BACK TO THE BLACKAMERICAWEB.COM HOMEPAGE

[ione_media_gallery id=”744962″ overlay=”true”]

Entertainment – Black America Web

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Film News Roundup: Coldplay Documentary ‘Head Full of Dreams’ Grosses $3.5 Million in One Day

In today’s film news roundup, Coldplay documentary “A Head Full of Dreams” performs well, Jon Heder’s “When Jeff Tried to Save the World” gets distribution and shooting has begun on transgender drama “Gossamer Folds.” BOX OFFICE Trafalgar Releasing has reported more than $ 3.5 million in box office revenue in one day for the Coldplay documentary […]

Variety

FASHION DEAL UPDATE: