An insight into John Delorean, the automobile engineer, and businessman who sold the dream of the ultimate sports car to millions
The documentary is a three-part mini-series that focuses on the rise and fall of a man who could be regarded as one of the first enigmatic entrepreneurs of the 20th Century. Each of the three episodes details his rise as an automobile executive at General Motors from the ghettos of Detroit, to building his own car factory in Belfast to mass-produce the Delorean DMC-12, and to his indictment and demise.
The greatest challenge for any biographical documentary is to tell a story that has been extensively covered in the media over the past four decades. The makers of Myth & Mogul: John Delorean, instead of rehashing the same stories again with similar narratives, brought in Chris Hegedus, the maker of the original documentary from 1981 titled Delorean, as an interviewee. Hegedus, along with her late husband D A Pennebaker documented the life of Delorean and his family that leads to the launch of the highly anticipated DMC-12 in the early 80s. Of course, the car never reached the markets as Delorean envisioned, but it did go on to become a cultural icon through the Back to the Future films.
Hegedus is able to provide a more personal account of the documentary she created and a ‘behind the curtains’ perspective of the Delorean family and their glamorous lives. The people closest to John Delorean were also interviewed including ex-wife Cristina Ferrare, son Zach Deleorean, Walter Strycker (former Chief Financial Advisor at DMC), Ivan Fallon (author of DeLorean: The Rise and Fall of a Dream Maker), as well as journalists, activists, lawmakers, and several others who played important roles in his life. The documentary does a stellar job at finding just the right people to interview for a character study on one of the most controversial entrepreneurs in the modern era.
The first episode takes a look at his life growing up in Detroit with his parents who emigrated from Romania. It helps the audience understand what drove him to succeed - a lanky bright student in school and college who became one of the most successful automobile manufacturers in the world. The second episode is where the series really picks up when it focuses on the DeLorean factory in Belfast, Northern Ireland in the midst of civil unrest between the Catholics and Protestants when the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was bombing the streets of Belfast. The archival footage used and the historical context provided with just the right amount of dramatisation made it a compelling view.
The final episode focused on the fall of the man and the company and his arrest for his alleged involvement in the drugs trade as well as embezzlement from his own company. The final episode also gives a glimpse of DeLorean’s dark side, detailing his warped sense of ethics and morality, from those closest to him. Interviews with Hillel Levin; the journalist who broke the story about DeLorean’s troubles; and his daughter Walter Avrea, tell the tale of a near sociopathic side of DeLorean which portrays him as a man who is willing to go to any lengths to be on the cover of the Time magazine.
Despite the captivating narrative, the documentary falls short in its post-production editing. The animations and the sound to capture the essence of the 70s and 80s of the United States and Northern Ireland have an uncanny resemblance to an amalgamation of Bond films from the 80s and Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. The archival footage from Hegedus’s original documentary and footage captured from the Irish civil unrest with commentary would have made an engrossing watch on its own. The overuse of sound and visuals limits the impact of the documentary which otherwise could have been one of the best works of the year.
It is a must-watch for anyone who is interested in understanding the brief history of the so-called ‘American dream’, and a brief history of the IRA comes in as an added bonus.