Directors Amber Sealey and Joe Berlinger got into a feud ahead of the Tribeca premiere of Sealey’s Ted Bundy picture No Man of God on June 11th.
The argument began with an email Berlinger sent Sealey after noticing interviews talking about the glorification of Bundy in American culture. In those interviews, he felt that she positively compared her film to others about the infamous serial killer – including two of his own – which meant that previous films had helped idolize Bundy while hers did not.
“Forgive the unsolicited advice, but after reading some of your interviews about your Bundy film, I have to tell you that tearing my job down to further yours is a slippery slope and intellectually dishonest and deeply offensive,” said Berlinger in the email which you can read in full below. “My work has unjustly taken people out of prison; has changed laws and is racially biased [policies] in prison; has led the US Congress to recognize the Armenian genocide, among other social justice efforts. I wish you every success with the film, but do not promote it at my expense. “
“I Felt Exploited”: The documentary “The Kids” raises clear ethical questions about the making of the 1995 indie cult classic “Kids” – Tribeca Studio
An Emmy-winning and Oscar nominee, Berlinger has directed two Bundy projects in recent years, including the Netflix documentary series Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. The latter, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, is a scripted version of Bundy’s story in which Zac Efron plays the killer.
After Sealey received Berlinger’s email, she shared it through her official Instagram page. “Received this unsolicited email this morning. Thanks for the support, Joe, ”she wrote in the caption. “We have an additional ticket for the #NoManOfGod premiere for you tonight, if you want to see the film for yourself and we can discuss more personally? Because it felt like you were just trying to make me feel crappy before my showing. Have a great day. #feminine filmmaker friday #bundyisdivisive ”
In a statement received from ., Sealey says she found Berlinger’s first email “quite shocking”.
“I never mentioned his name or his films in any of my press interviews, so it was dishonest of him to say that I vandalized his films,” she wrote. “His name once appeared on a podcast that I don’t think he has even heard of, but I’ve never said anything specifically about his films in the industry or in press interviews. There have been 20 films made about Bundy and it was surprising to me that he took my comments so personally. “
It is unclear whether there was an interview in support of No Man of God that particularly annoyed Berlinger. Sealey says that in interviews she was simply trying to convey what her film brings to the narrative of Bundy compared to those who have previously appeared. “I feel like my film is saying something new and I shouldn’t have to be embarrassed or silenced for not commenting on how I think my film is different from the previous ones,” she wrote. “In every interview I’ve done, I’ve been asked, ‘Why another Bundy movie?’ because that is of course the obvious question. It is disingenuous of him that he wanted me not to answer this question. “
In a statement received from ., Berlinger stood by his original email and further questioned the motivation behind Sealey’s comment in the press. “Promoting your film about the rape and murder of women by tearing down my film [Extremely Wicked] Conceived as a restorative film about the psychology of betrayal and deception, made with the full support of victim Liz Kendall, played by Lily Collins, and supported by other victims of Bundy’s crimes, felt intellectually dishonest, ”he wrote . “I thoughtfully shared my feelings with Amber in a private email. Your publication of this private email is just as self-promoting as your comments on my film.
“There is room for many attitudes on a topic, and I wish her all the best,” continues Berlinger. “It’s a wonder that a movie is made these days – so destroying other people’s work to promote your own is not how filmmakers interact. Remember, she made it public, not me. Mine was a private email. “
In her statement, Sealey claimed that she only shared Berlinger’s email on a public forum because it felt like an attempt to “shame” and “silence” her.
“It felt like he wanted to let me know he was big and important and wanted to ‘raise’ me. I felt this was a bigger conversation than just him and me, and I wanted to invite him to actually see my film and then speak to me openly, “she wrote. “Of course Joe wants his email private – it felt like bullying, being ashamed, listing his awards, trying to hurt someone he didn’t know and whose movie he still hasn’t seen. I have a feeling that this is a bigger conversation than just the two of us. “
Sealey’s chamber piece with Elijah Wood and Luke Kirby was acquired by RLJE Films in May. It explores the intricate relationship between serial killer Ted Bundy (Luke Kirby) and Bill Hagmaier (Wood), the famous FBI analyst who was sent to profile him during his final years on death row. Berlinger’s next project as a director is the documentary Raising Hell: The Visions of Clive Barker. As a producer, he also has a number of projects in the works including two documentaries entitled The Burning and From the Other Side of the Glass.
Sealey’s Instagram post with Berlinger’s email can be found below.