Sheffield Doc/Fest Review: Author: The JT LeRoy Story

JT LeRoy was born in West Virginia in 1980. Coming from a background of drug addiction, abuse and vagrancy, LeRoy’s story is a troubled one. In 1994 the self-styled ‘Terminator’ reached out to novelists and shared his writings. His first novel, Sarah, sparked a literary sensation and was swifty followed by The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, a collection of short stories. Shrouded in mystery, public appearances were scarce until he finally opened himself up to the world; disguised in a wig and hat. After being feted by authors, critics and celebrities alike, in 2005 the New York Times blew the myth away. JT LeRoy did not exist.

In Jeff Feuerzeig’s film Author: The JT LeRoy Story he investigates the web of half-truths, lies and intrigue through the eyes of the creator of the works, Laura Albert. Albert is a charismatic and consummate performer, whose troubled past was brought to life in the character of JT LeRoy. Using recordings from the time with celebrities, her therapist and publishers, she gives an account of events from her own perspective. Acting as LeRoy’s manager, the Dick Van Dyke English spouting Speedie, along with her partner Geoff and his sister Savannah, they managed to carry-off the illusion for over a decade.

Today, the events behind the phenomenon of JT LeRoy seem almost too tall to be true. Feuerzeig allows Albert to tell the story in her own way, along with recollections from her life which give clues behind her motivation. The backlash and controversy seem a little harsh give that, apart from early claims of suffering from HIV which were quickly dropped, in retrospect she doesn’t appear to have done a lot wrong. The argument between persona, fact and fiction blur through the eyes of an obviously disturbed and unstable narrator. Author: The JT LeRoy Story is a riveting documentary which intrigues, disturbs and amuses in equal measure.

Author: The JT LeRoy Story is out in cinemas from 29 July.

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