Matt Yoka, director of our documentary film, Whirlybird, sat down with NPR’s Leslie Thatcher and Barbara Bretz on their Sundance Reel segment to talk about his background in film, the history and creative process behind Whirlybird, and more. The film was showcased in the U.S. Documentary Competition category at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Listen to the full interview here.
More about Whirlybird:
Whirlybird is a uniquely profound documentary shares the unparalleled story of Zoey Tur and then-wife and career partner, Marika Gerrard, who revolutionized breaking news in Los Angeles via helicopter.
The film follows the duo’s hunger to do whatever it took to capture news, features never-before-seen archival footage, and shows the intersection between the obsession of breaking news in the ’90s, its effect on the world, and the effect on those who captured it—the decline of Tur and Gerrard’s relationship parallels the violent state of Los Angeles in the late ’80s and ’90s.
Yoka spent six years sorting through and digitizing Tur’s archives, and you can see historical footage throughout the documentary, including the 1992 riots to the infamous OJ Simpson pursuit.
Whirlybird is a human journey through fires, earthquakes, riots, police chases, celebrity police chases, and family home videos. It’s something unique to LA, unique to Zoey and Marika, and somehow… Matt captured it.George Edellmen, No Film School
Composed predominantly of home videos and news footage—most of which is filmed on VHS—Whirlybird encapsulates the plight of two individuals emboldened by the opportunity to incite change. Theirs is a mission accompanied by the micro-imperfections and macro-deficiencies of the human heart. Commendably, the documentary does not shy away from depicting Tur and Gerrard at their lowest points, particularly the former party. Still, this unrestricted access into the mindset of the reporters adds to the emotional effect that Whirlybird aspires to impart.Jonathan Christian, The Playlist
Matt Yoka beautifully weaves in archival footage with contemporary interviews. One can look at Whirlybird as a time capsule. The film captures around 40 years or so in the industry. When it comes to the news business, it’s about being in the right place at the right time. But what happens in the moments leading up to it? This film shows exactly that but nobody said it would be pretty.
The film is able to show how transition can change a person. Living an authentic life means no longer having to hide under a mask. The rage and hating what you’ve become isn’t there after transitioning. What remains is regret.Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies
More than once, the whirlybird comes down to earth, and the journalists inside become rescuers of people with no other hope of survival. Those are the good times.Tim Molloy, MovieMaker
But when the rush of breaking news wears off, everyone is left to consider the personal costs — and what is was all for. Whirlybird helps us understand breaking news as a high-flying addiction like any other — one that, for the Tur family, left lots of pain behind.
For more information about Whirlybird, you can visit the website here.