Being George Clooney (Paul Mariano, 2016): USA | Brazil | France | Germany | India | Italy | Turkey

Reviewed by Elizabeth Gain.  Viewed at Metro 4 theater, Santa Barbara.

Dubbing is not something that we in the United States understand very well.  Sure, we get the concept that movie dialog is replaced with a recording of the same dialog in another language.  But we’ve never had to watch films that way, so we don’t realize how it impacts people’s moviegoing experience or their appreciation for actors.  Being George Clooney changes that.  It’s a slick documentary that sheds light into what happens to American movies after they leave our country.

The film sets the tone with a lighthearted introduction to a handful of George Clooney dubbers from all over the world, and the statement that “dubbing is an art form.”  The opening interviews explain that dubbing culture is different in different countries, and we get a history lesson why Italy, in particular, loves it’s dubbers and reveres them as a type of celebrity.  Many dubbers and sound engineers tell their stories, interspersed with actual clips of George Clooney movies with and without the language dubs.  The movie sorts through the dubbing process in various countries, including interesting problems and surprising conflicts that have to be accommodated by those in the world of dubbing.  

One of the strongest features of this film is the huge variety of dubbers who tell their stories.  The filmmakers were incredibly thorough, traveling the globe and seeking out numerous voice actors in every country.  When we see the dubbed clips for each language, it becomes clear that these people are on the receiving end of America’s primary cultural export, movies.  The George Clooney dubbers were very likeable, as is the real George Clooney, so it was fun that his persona was the featured celebrity we followed.

The clean structure of the film made it easy to watch for the most part.  The soft lighting of the interviews and studio shots maintained a cinematic look so it was natural to cut back and forth between the Hollywood clips.  A few of the transitions were jarring, though, when the dialog dropped out and the subject changed.  There was also a heavy exposition at the end about how dubbers only receive minimal credit and compensation from Hollywood.  This topic, however, sparked most of the questions and a lively dialog in the Question and Answer session with the director after the screening of the film.

Overall, Being George Clooney is an interesting look into an unusual field.  I think that many Americans, though, might have a hard time sympathizing with the ups and downs described by those who live with the dubbing cultural phenomenon.  After its world premiere at SBIFF, it screened at a film festival in Croatia.  I am guessing that the film will be more popular in Europe and other world markets for American films.


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