HBO has released the first trailer for its upcoming original movie Cinema Verite, and to describe it requires some thorny meta untangling: It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the groundbreaking 1973 PBS documentary series An American Family, which chronicled the painful dissolution of a family in Santa Barbara, California. The series by Oscar-winning doc filmmakers Alan and Susan Raymond centered on couple Pat Loud (Diane Lane) and Bill Loud (Tim Robbins), who split up during the filming, and their children, the eldest of whom, son Lance, became TV’s first openly gay character.
Cinema Verite stars Diane Lane and Tim Robbins as Pat and Bill, Thomas Dekker as son Lance, and James Gandolfini as producer Craig Gilbert. It was directed by husband and wife team Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (American Splendor, Wanderlust), and written by David Seltzer (1976′s The Omen).
An American Family was a total departure from the television shows of the time when it aired in 1973, and brought public scrutiny to a family unprepared for the consequences. It put the Louds in the spotlight as the parents (Diane Lane, Tim Robbins) struggled with their marriage while raising their children. In particular, Pat was criticized for her support of her openly gay son Lance (Thomas Dekker) at a time when homosexuality was rarely represented on television.
Cinema Verite gives a behind-the-scenes look at how the original PBS series was created by filmmaker Craig Gilbert (James Gandolfini). While he aimed to have an impact on culture, he also felt that the family’s struggles were relatable to many Americans in a way that the Brady Bunch and the Partridge Family were not. The crew of Alan and Susan Raymond (Patrick Fugit, Shanna Collins) spent seven months filming the family in 1971 and were often at odds with Gilbert about what content was appropriate to film.