The Writer With No Hands

Director: William Westaway

Rating: 4/5

In this engaging and thought provoking documentary entitled The Writer With No Hands, Director William Westaway takes an observatory approach as he follows Producer Matthew Alford, a professor at Bristol University who holds a Doctorate in US Cinema and Politics, who has begun a rigorous inquiry into the suspicious circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Hollywood screenwriter Gary DeVore on June 28, 1997.

DeVore’s submerged vehicle and partially decomposed corpse were found one year after his death by an “amateur sleuth”, who the police stated was not a suspect, in an aqueduct near Palmdale, California. The case was closed shortly thereafter, leaving many unanswered questions.

In the film, Alford and Westaway explore the perplexing loopholes in the investigation of DeVore’s death: Why did it take a year to find the body? Why was his laptop missing? Why were his hands missing?

It is well known that the CIA provides consulting services to filmmakers through their “Entertainment Industry Liason Office” but the extent to which they censor and manipulate scripts to advance their own agendas is lesser known. This was the theme that DeVore was exploring in a screenplay he was writing prior to his death. It is also a topic that Alford, who authored the novel “Reel Power: Hollywood Cinema and American Supremacy” is well versed in. Alford and Westaway theorize that the CIA had a hand in the disappearance of DeVore and believe that the discovery of the body in June 1998 was a cover up.

Westaway juxtaposes the facts presented by Alford with scenes depicting the emotional and psychological aspects of his investigation. This topic dominates Alford’s thoughts and dreams, conversations with his wife and kids. It further fuels an online friendship with DeVore’s widow who he often Skypes with to learn more about DeVore and to elucidate circumstances under which he disappeared.

I wouldn’t want to be Westaway’s friend (or enemy!) after seeing this documentary.  Alford was not expecting a film focusing on what appears to be pathological dive into this mystery and was surprised when he saw the resulting film. He took offense to being portrayed not as an academic, but as an unkempt, obsessed hobbyist who destroys his marriage by spending his nights and days researching the accident, re-playing the suspicious car crash with his children’s toys, and Skyping late at night.

If you are expecting an overly-dramatized murder investigation with monotone voice overs as witnesses describe facts, and an ominous sounding narrator slowly unfolds a story, then you will be sorely disappointed. This documentary is riveting. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

 

 

Dana Petrov