Rebecca Dreyfus' riveting new art documentary, 'Stolen', illuminates a side of high art that they don't cover in class.
"Is it still a masterpiece if no one can see it?" Rebecca's Dreyfus documentary art thriller STOLEN investigates the most expensive art heist in modern history.
Art thievery, an insipid industry as old as the day is long, is hardly your typical fodder for a modern day documentary thriller. Yet Rebecca Dreyfus' new film, STOLEN—a moving investigation into the most notorious, unsolved art heist in modern history—is a finger-biting art flick fashioned like a game of Clue. On the morning following Boston's raucous St Patrick Day celebrations, two men masquerading as policemen walked into the enchanting Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on March 18, 1990, tied the guards up, and strolled out with over 13 priceless masterpieces, including what is now considered to be the most expensive work of stolen art, Joannne Vermeer's "The Concert." Decades later and still unsolved, Dreyfus investigates the crime, drawing from an exceptional cast of real-life characters—from art historians and convicted felons to a sleuth name Turbocharger. Her narrative puzzle enthralls with creative juxtapositions. Tales of Gardner's glorious art-filled life clash painfully with the image of her crippled collection, while Harold Smith, the disfigured Robin Hood of stolen art, commits his final years to recovering her stolen beauties. With the renowned documentarian Albert Maysles behind the camera, Dreyfus' presents a riveting reflection on loss and the profoundly personal dialog between admirer and the admired. Just in time for its theatrical release, filmmaker Rebecca Dreyfus takes us behind-the-scenes of her award winning STOLEN.
What is your definition of luxury?
A feeling of complete and utter well-being and the sense that there is plenty to go around.
If luxury were a person, who would it be?
Somebody in the midst of the above description.
If luxury were a place, where would it be?
Some place with lots of open space and light and always plenty of good food and friends and family.
If luxury were a moment, what would it be?
Any moment in which you are living the above description. Or a feeling of blissful exhaustion after a day lived to its fullest.
If luxury were an object, what would it be?
A bouquet of wildflowers.
What was the inspiration behind STOLEN, a love for art, documentary thrillers, a particular connection with any of the stolen paintings, etc.?
I loved both the Gardner Museum and also Vermeer's "The Concert" so the theft definitely got my attention. When I started to look into the possibility of making the film I realized there was a very strange and disparate cast of characters associated with the theft. A group of individuals that were never have been connected had it not been for the theft. There was something a bit outrageous about this fact which sort of charmed me in terms of making a film.
Were you secretly hoping to help solve the crime by making this film?
Not so secretly. But Susannah Ludwig -who is my fabulous producer- and I always agreed that we would make a great film with or without a recovery, which is what we did.
Do you agree with the assumption that if Ms. Gardner were still alive, she would have retrieved her paintings by now?
I think it's certainly possible. I think one person with a lot of influence and a strong personal desire to see the recovery happen might very well be effective. She certainly would have been that person if she were here.
There are so many moving moments in the film? What were some of the most touching for you?
STOLEN is very much about moments, so I wouldn't so much identify a particular moment in the film that is meaningful to me although of course, I do have my personal favorites. I would just say the idea of a moment, particularly in relation to Vermeer's work is, thematically a big part of STOLEN.
The candid accounts of renowned art thieves of their previous crimes are incredibly. Was it difficult getting them to speak opening about their past?
Arranging interviews with some of these people was very challenging. They were very difficult to pin down. But once we were in the room with them, they didn't seem to hold anything back.
What were some of your greatest challenges in making the film?
I guess the biggest challenge was maintaining the vision and desire to keep going over such a long period of time. There were so many occasions along the way when it would have been so much easier just to let it go and move onto something else. If you talk to other documentary filmmakers this is something we all face. You have to be very driven.
What was it like working with the great documentarian Albert Maysles and how did he get involved in the project?
I made another film called BYE-BYE BABUSHKA which is about Russia. Albert is quite a ruso-file and he liked BBB and we became friends. It was wonderful working with him. He is a very special person. He really brings out the best in those around him. When Albert is in the room, the room is different. It's hard to be anything but your best self around Albert. It's nice to be around people like that, don't you think?
Harold Smith played such an integral role in this investigation. How has it proceeded after his death, and would you consider doing a follow-up should the paintings resurface?
Since Harold passed, we have been mostly been working on the distribution of the film. We would consider doing a follow in the case of a recovery. It's likely that we would put an epilogue on the film.
The film presents several viable theories as to who is responsible for the heist, concluding with an international Irish mafia conspiracy. What is your gut feeling about where these paintings might be?
I don't really speak about this. You have to make your own decisions after watching STOLEN.
What are you currently working on?
I am working on a romantic comedy and Susannah Ludwig and I are also developing a new documentary about the art world.
International release dates: