Slamdance 2023: Starring Jerry As Himself

Directed by Law Chen, Starring Jerry as Himself is a docu-fiction hybrid that tells the amazing true story of Jerry Hsu. Divorced but devoted to his family, Jerry is an honest and hard-working man who wants to do what?s right. However, when Jerry receives a call from the government, he finds himself enlisted to help the CIA bring down a notorious criminal, without the knowledge of his family. As things begin to spiral out of hand, Jerry must work tirelessly to maintain his double life in order for justice to be served.

With intensity and intelligence, Starring Jerry is a surprising and honest journey into the mind of the elderly. Blurring the lines between fact and fiction, Chen shoots his film with the slow-burn intensity of spy thrillers. Missed text messages, secret phone calls and stake outs play out so dramatically that one may forget that this is based on a true story. 

But what?s most amazing about Starring Jerry though is? well? Jerry. 

As a first-time performer, Jerry Hsu does a wonderful job playing himself. While that seems like an obvious statement, the structure of a fictionalized documentary would make it all the more difficult to bring? um? yourself to life. However, Hsu carries himself with poise, enthusiasm and energy. In every moment on screen, Hsu is nothing less than compelling. He is almost instantly endearing and his journey consistently terrifying. There is little doubt that this film is a labour of love from the man and he brings that affection to the screen. 

Without giving too many spoilers, Starring Jerry is a harrowing ride from start to finish. Although the film?s big ?twist? might be obvious from the outset, that somehow makes his journey even more terrifying. Despite its heightened spy-thriller set-up, reality sets in quickly for the viewer. The fact that this is also a family affair also makes the film feel honest.

But that?s the magic of Jerry. As he embarks on his adventures with the CIA, our fear is not for Jerry?s life but for his well-being. (If you see the film, you?ll understand the distinction.) His tale is riveting, horrifying and heart-breaking but is also entirely relatable and real. With each unbelievable chapter, the film remains entirely believable and could have been experienced by anyone you know, whether a friend, neighbour or family member. In other words, his story could be anyone?s? and Jerry knows it.

In fact, what makes the film truly special is Jerry?s intent to tell it. To him, this is more than an exciting story of espionage. It?s also an opportunity to help others. With every terrifying moment, his genuine concern shines through. We know that this story is being told not only for his benefit but for ours. 

To say any more would likely be too much information but, suffice to say, Starring Jerry as Himself is a unique film that is sure to stir up conversation afterwards. Although this story is thrilling, the most important aspect for it is the truth that it uncovers and the hope it offers to others.

Starring Jerry as Himself is now playing at Slamdance ’23.

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