Michael Mann to Make Biopic About Spanish Civil War Photog Robert Capa; Will He Engage or Avoid Staged Photo Controversy?
Posted on Sunday, October 4th, 2009 by Russ Fischer
It’s been a couple months since Public Enemies came and went, so it’s long past time (as far as I’m concerned) to hear what director Michael Mann is doing next. There’s a good chance he’ll next turn to another period biopic, this time of famed Spanish Civil War photographer Robert Capa. Capa is one of the most renowned war photographers and his lover Gerda Taro is famous for being the first female war photog on the front lines; she was killed during a battle in 1937.
Variety reports Mann’s interest; his picture will likely be based on Spanish author Susana Fortes‘ novel Waiting for Robert Capa, which was published this past spring to great acclaim in Spain. The novel begins in 1935, when Endre Friedmann meets Gerta Pohorylle. Both exiled Jewish communists, the two changed their names to have a better chance in the world of photography. He became Robert Capa, she Gerda Taro. Fortes was moved to write their story when she read about thousands of Spanish Civil War photographs taken by the pair that were unearthed in 2008.
But there’s a wrinkle here that Mann may or may not tackle. One of Capa’s most famous photographs is called ‘Falling Soldier’, as it purports to capture a man at the moment of his death. (The image is more fully titled ‘Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936′.) But claims have long swirled that the photo, along with many others Capa took at the same time, was staged. I won’t go into all the details, but if you want to know more The New York Times has a good recent article on the subject.
If Mann’s picture is a straight biographical drama it’ll be difficult to tackle this subject without taking a definitive stand on whether or not the photo was staged. I hope, then, that the film is less than standard from a biopic perspective, and tackles questions about the rigorous depiction of events versus creating propaganda for one group over another. Capa’s story is interesting, but seeing Mann get into deeper issues could make the movie really fascinating.