Author’s Note: I contributed financially to this film’s Kickstarter
All the way back in early 2014 I was surfing the various projects of Kickstarter when I came across one called Being George Clooney. Alas, this film didn’t seem like it was going to be the Clooney version of Being John Malkivitch.
Rather it was about the various dubbing artists that voice Mr Clooney in his movies as they are distributed around the world.
Suitably interested I donated, but completely forgot about the film when it was finally released in mid-2016. I finally got around to watching it a few days ago, but was the wait worth it?
Being George Clooney explores the world of film dubbing. Specifically we meet the men known as the “Designated Voices”. These are the men that, over several years and sometimes decades, have become the voice that the general public associate with a certain actor.
The film ranges from Italy (Francesco Pannofino) to India (Shakti Singh), with some countries, such as Germany, even having two! (Martin Umbach and Detlef Bierstedt). We find out how each of them came to the role and how such an intimate relationship with a man they’ve never met can develop.
Living in an English speaking society (and arguably the most dominant cinematic language), it’s amazing to realise that there is an entire “hidden” sphere where great voice actors help bring life to Hollywood actors all around the world.
While the film does open with a hugely fawnish montage about how amazing George Clooney (GC) is, it fortunately doesn’t take away from the fascinating idea that there are millions of people who have never heard the real voice of GC.
We’re introduced to 14 of these dubbers and the varied lives they lead. For example, Turkish GC (Tamer Karadağlı) is a popular Soap star, while Brazilian GC (Marco António Costa) also happens to be a General Practitioner!
As these gentlemen take us on a journey through their world, we see some of the surprising problems and conflicts that must be overcome. For example, in the Lara Croft sequel, after being asked if he managed to secure transportation, the Gerald Butler character replies:
Piece of Cake!
To us English speakers it’s a common phrase, but everyone else around the world is just thinking: “Why is he talking about cake?”
Fortunately it’s not all GC as we get to see the female POV with introductions to the dubbers of German Emma Watson (Gabrielle Pietermann) and Italian Michelle Pfeiffer (Emanuela Rossi).
While the bulk of the documentary is dedicated to the men and women behind the voices, a small section explores the fascinating history behind cinematic dubbing. Who knew the art of dubbing originally came about because Mussolini didn’t want his people to hear foreign languages?
In addition to the history of the craft, the film also takes some time to recognise the ridiculous hurdles they are forced to jump through. For example, due to piracy issues, dubbers are forced to dub films where they can only see the mouths of the actors they are voicing. Luise Helm (the German Megan Fox) reveals that it got so bad she legitimately had no idea if Fox was running or having sex!
The film also explores the lack of rights that dubbers have over their own voices. Even ignoring the fact they only receive a couple of hundred dollars for each multi-million film, they also receive no royalties, no public acknowledgements and are even banned from film premieres!
If you have access to Netflix or a space few quid, Being George Clooney explores a fascinating subculture in world cinema and is a film well worth watching.