Truth Teller for Trailers is a new video fact-checking experience that aims to answer the one question movie-goers have about films based on real life: how much of what’s on screen really happened? That question is particularly relevant this week in advance of the Oscars, in which six of the nine films nominated for Best Picture are based on true stories.
The Fact Checker, working with the Truth Teller team, separated fact from fiction for each of these films — all within the trailer experience. Fact-checking movies is the first big expansion this year of Truth Teller, which has until now focused on political speech. When trailers are released for new and notable films in the ‘based-on-a-true-story’ genre, we’ll quickly check the facts and release the trailer with the Truth Teller experience.
Our goal is to scrutinize the big stuff. Is it an accurate portrayal of history? Are the characters based on real people? We’re not looking to play gotcha on the little embellishments inherent in storytelling.
We have marked outright falsehoods on the trailers with a red line over text, while a green line indicates an accurate depiction and a blue one is used for context and other useful information.
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During our research, we came across some interesting sources of additional information on these movies, including:
- A New York Times article from Jan. 20, 1853 on the Solomon Northrup case that was the basis of “12 Years a Slave”
- A 60 Minutes interview in 1981 with the real-life swindler at the heart of “American Hustle”
- An impassioned article by Martin Sixsmith, the journalist portrayed in “Philomena,” about the real-life tragedy behind the story.
- The Dallas Morning News magazine article that first highlighted Ron Woodroof and the Dallas Buyers Club.
Just like us, you’ll be surprised by what turned out to be real and what was really just Hollywood hype. Sit back, relax and enjoy the show: wapo.st/truthtrailers.