The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

August 22, 2008

Library review: Mockumentary examines ‘American Zombie’

At the 2006 True/False documentary film festival in Columbia, Mo., I attended a showing of “The Grace Lee Project,” which details one woman’s quest to meet people all over the country that share her name and discover how much they resemble the Grace Lee “stereotype” (reserved, good student, religious, plays piano).

Lee, who was born and raised in Columbia but now lives in Los Angeles, was on hand to present her film. The audience was delighted to see a hometown girl’s success, and during the question and answer session, someone asked what her next film was about. She simply replied, “Zombies.” Everyone kind of chuckled; I think they thought she was kidding. After all, how could a documentarian shoot a film about zombies, which populate horror movies and comic books but not real life?

But, no, she wasn’t kidding. The result is “American Zombie,” a new addition to the Joplin Public Library’s DVD collection. And it’s more of a mockumentary than a documentary, if you will.

Grace Lee and her film-school friend John Solomon portray themselves. They are filmmakers on the trail of a new minority in American society: the living dead, or revenants. The premise is that many people have begun to reanimate after suffering a violent death, the result of a virus contracted sometime during their lives. Experts have classified zombies according to their sentience and ability to function in human society. Although some are “feral” (like George Romero’s zombies), many are able to hold jobs, have relationships and enjoy hobbies.

Grace wants to create a serious portrait of what it means to be a zombie in today’s America. John, on the other hand, has a fixation on blood and guts and a more sensationalist bent. Early on, he asks a bewildered interviewee, “What about, like, human flesh? Do you eat that?” Her response is to offer him a snack of soy butter and whole-wheat crackers, more in keeping with her organic vegan lifestyle.

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