Program Details

Reel Imagined Lives

Shelly Isaacs
Video Catch-up

Course Description

Biopics have always been a staple of world cinema. How cinema represents history and "real lives" has become more and more an ongoing debate. While some biopics are grounded in historical convention and the genre's defining traits, others represent the potential for innovation in their storytelling. In this session, we will explore the lives of four famous lives within films that attempt to do both.


  1. "The Motorcycle Diaries":  Argentina, Chile, Peru, Brazil -  A road movie, a coming-of-age film, and a biopic, the story follows a young Che Guevara and his closest friend, traveling through South America, and how the young Che’s life became determined by what he witnessed.
  2. "The Bandit Queen": India - This lauded Indian drama focuses on the life of Phoolan Devi, a revered criminal who eventually went on to become a renowned politician. The film details the hardships that she faced in her youth and overcame as a female member of a lower caste.
  3. "Persona Non Grata": Japan - The story of a Japanese diplomat, sometimes called the Schindler of Japan, and his life leading up to and after his decision to go against his country’s orders and issue over 2,000 visas to Jewish refugees in Kaunas, Lithuania resulting in saving the lives of over 6,000 people. 

  4. "Mozart's Sister": France - A re-imagined account of the early life of Maria Anna 'Nannerl' Mozart, five years older than Wolfgang and a musical prodigy in her own right.

About the Instructor

  • Shelly Isaacs, M.A. is founder and host for Café Cinematheque International, a foreign language film program presented in venues throughout South Florida. As a creative director/writer/producer and director in advertising, Isaacs specialized in promoting movies & entertainment. He earned a master's degree in media ecology studies from New York University, and taught graduate-level courses in cultural studies. In 2009 he launched Cinematheque at Sea, a film program available on luxury cruises throughout the world.