Richard Lowenstein’s Michael Hutchence doc generates heat at Tribeca

‘Mystify: Michael Hutchence’

International buyers are circling Mystify: Michael Hutchence, Richard Lowenstein’s revealing portrait of the late INXS frontman, following the world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Negotiations handled by the international sales agent Dogwoof are expected to continue after the feature documentary screens this week at the Hot Docs festival in Toronto.

“We had great responses at the Tribeca press and industry screenings, which were attended by reps of some really good companies,” Sue Murray, who produced with Lowenstein, Mya Gnyp, John Battsek, Mark Fennessy, Lynn-Maree Milburn and Andrew de Groot, tells IF from New York.

“We expect to get a report from Dogwoof in the next few days, and there will be market screenings in Cannes.”

Lowenstein finished the film, a labour of love, just before the festival opened, with the final version shipped to the event as he was en route to NY.

It features interviews with Hutchence’s former girlfriends Helena Christensen, Kylie Minogue and producer Michelle Bennett as well as his sister Tina, father Rhett and music luminaries including Bono, Garry Gary Beers and the Farriss brothers.

Screen Daily’s Graham Fuller is optimistic about the doc’s commercial and awards prospects, observing: “The densely woven and worshipfully presented archival footage of the INXS frontman, on stage and off, is a reminder that in terms of wild talent and Dionysian sexiness, he belongs in the same company as Mick Jagger, Jim Morrison and Robert Plant.

“Much more importantly, the film makes a powerful case that, despite a troubled upbringing, Hutchence was not naturally self-destructive. What lifts it above the majority of documentaries about celebrities and artists is its extraordinary intimacy.”

Variety’s Katherine Turman declared the film makes powerful use of family and personal footage to tell the story of a talented man beset by personal demons as well as illuminating the influence of a serious head injury that he hid from the public.

“Voiceovers from Hutchence’s intimates — family members, INXS bandmates, record producers, managers and girlfriends — along with press interviews, concert footage and home videos, give context to the unexpectedly intimate film,” she said.

Madman Entertainment has yet to set a release date for the film co-funded by Screen Australia, Film Victoria, the ABC and the BBC.

Mandy Chang, then ABC head of arts, now commissioning editor, BBC Storyville and the BBC’s head of doc acquisitions, was an early champion.

Chang introduced the filmmaker to Kate Townsend, who was running the BBC’s feature doc strand Storyville, when he pitched the project at the Australian International Documentary Conference. Chang also introduced him to Passion Pictures’ John Battsek.

Jan Younghusband, head of TV commissioning, BBC Music, says: “Michael Hutchence was one of the most influential and charismatic rock stars of the modern era and I’m delighted that this moving documentary will air on BBC Two.”