Cinema Verite tells the story behind TV’s first reality show

This weekend HBO Canada will premiere Cinema Verite, a dramatized look at the events surrounding the creation of the 1973 PBS documentary “An American Family”.

American Family chronicled the lives of the Louds in the early 1970s and catapulted the Santa Barbara family to notoriety in the creation of a new genre – the reality TV series.

Cinema Verite, starring James Gandolfini, Dianne Lane and Time Robbins, examines how the ground-breaking series was created by filmmaker Craig Gilbert (Gandolfini), who felt that the Loud family’s struggles were relatable to viewers in a way that popular, scripted TV families, such as those portrayed in The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family, were not. The series was filmed by husband-and-wife crew of Alan and Susan Raymond (Patrick Fugit, Shanna Collins), who spent seven months with the Louds in 1971.

The result was a total departure from the television shows of its time, and thrust a middle-class family into the spotlight as America witnessed the parents’ (Diane Lane, Tim Robbins) struggle with marital issues while raising five children. The Louds were unprepared for the scrutiny that would follow the show; in particular, mom and wife Pat was publicly criticized for her support of openly gay son Lance (Thomas Dekker), at a time when homosexuality was rarely represented on television.

Cinema Verite premieres Saturday, April 23 at 9 p.m. ET/MT on HBO Canada.

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