Canadian Television Fund created by the Government of Canada and the Canadian Cable Industry
SODEC Société de développement des entreprises culturelles – Québec
Quebec (Film and Television Tax Credit - Gestion SODEC)
Canada (The Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit)
Access (Canadian Learning Television)
(An) excellent hour investigating the relatively unknown countenance of William Shakespeare. (…) The detective work is fascinating to witness, so too are the attitudes, both snooty and awestruck, from celebrated art dealers and collectors.
Battle of Wills is full of nuggets of intrigue
Elegantly shot, fluidly edited, emanating an air of mystery
International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA) Selection – Official Competition, Montreal 2009
Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival Arkansas 2009
Festival d'Art Ipousteguy 2010
To be or not to be...
From the moment I saw the Sanders portrait in Vanity Fair, I was instantly captivated by this radically different image of Shakespeare. Unlike the expressionless face traditionally associated with the poet, the Sanders portrait is brimming with life, mischief, and wit. The painting portrays how I imagine, or want, Shakespeare to be.
My visceral response to the image drew me into the multi-layered world of the portrait, where I found a story that is rich in drama, politics, characters, and visual possibilities. I envisioned Battle of Wills as a documentary thriller which would slowly decode the identity of the enigmatic sitter in the painting. In the process, the portrait would take on a life of its own.
Shakespeare is still the sphinx of English literature, the most universally-loved of artists, as well as the least known. What type of man was he? The Sanders portrait opens a door onto the mysteries that lie beyond the canvas.
I was lucky that my central character Lloyd Sullivan is a man of passion and indefatigable willpower. His mission to authenticate his family heirloom drives the story, on a journey that takes us from the high tech labs of North America, to the art galleries and theatres of London, to the windswept castles of the English Midlands. I wanted the film to include not only curators and art dealers, but actors, such as Joseph Fiennes who has played Shakespeare, and knows the writer intuitively from the inside.
I discovered that there is a huge cultural industry, as well as nationalist sentiments, built upon existing images of Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s iconic status has ensured that debates over authenticity are full of hidden agendas and economic self-interest.
Finally, the fascination with this 400 year old portrait is very modern. Because we live in the age of photography, we want to stare at the faces of our greatest artists, to learn the secrets of their inner life. We imagine a connection with the human being in the portrait, as if the person gazes back at us too. Battle of Wills allows me to tap into this modern sensibility in pursuit of the true face of Will Shakespeare.
Part historical mystery, part sci-fi thriller, Battle of Wills tells the compelling story of the Sanders portrait, a painting with a controversial claim to be the only image of Shakespeare taken from life.
Battle of Wills tells a story of obsession and intrigue in the art world. Lloyd Sullivan believes he owns the only portrait of Shakespeare done from life, created in 1603 by an ancestor who was a bit actor in Shakespeare’s troupe. Thirteen scientific tests have proven that the Sanders portrait is an unaltered painting from the early 17th century. But is it Shakespeare? Lloyd Sullivan is risking his lifetime’s savings to prove that it is. Battle of Wills travels from the high tech labs of North America, to the art galleries of Bond Streetand the wind-swept castles of the English Midlands to unravel the mystery behind a painting that shook the art world.
With the participation of Lloyd Sullivan, Pam and Tim Hinks, Daniel Fischlin, Joseph Fiennes, Lilly Koltun, Marie-Claude Corbeil, Anne Trudel, Angus Neill, Michael Pennington, Jenny Tiramani, David Loch, Philip Mould, Michel Fournier, Gregory Doran, Simon Callow, Tarnya Cooper, Stephanie Nolen, Joe Barabé, Jeremy Powell, Michael Hodgetts, Theresa Fairbanks Harris, Greg Shea and Ben Kelly.