Ahead of its streaming debut on Amazon Prime later this month, “Lorena” had its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. The documentary series flips the script on the 1993 John and Lorena Bobbitt scandal to allow the latter to finally tell her side of the story. The scandal made headlines and turned Lorena into a joke after she cut off her husband’s penis with a knife while he was asleep in bed, but the real story behind Lorena’s decision was rooted in a history of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her husband.
During an interview at the IndieWire Studio, presented by Dropbox, “Lorena” director Joshua Rofé admitted getting interview subjects to agree to appear on camera wasn’t exactly the easiest thing, despite the fact that Lorena’s story has been justly recontextualized in the #MeToo era. Rofé said there were two tricks to getting people to agree to be interviewed for the series. The first was bringing his team of researchers with him for interviews in order to show potential interview subjects this was a serious approach to the story and not just another sensationalized tabloid investigation. The other was letting people know Jordan Peele was attached the project as a producer.
“Name dropping ‘Get Out’ didn’t hurt,” Rofé said. “Usually I’m just this guy calling them up and they have to on a wing and prayer answer. But when you can say, ‘No, there is this person you are aware of and you probably love what they do and he’s a part of it,’ well people trust famous people. In terms of getting the interviews, there was a couple of times that was the common ground when push came to shove in terms of getting one.”
“Jordan Peele is also interested in social issues,” Lorena added, “and this was a very important part for him to get involved and on board. This social discourse on domestic violence.”
Peele also was essential in shaping the narrative to the series, as Rofé revealed. “There was one moment when we showed him the first rough cut of the episodes, and he literally gave one note,” the director said. The note was essentially to structure the story like how I pitched it to him originally. As soon as he said that, everything clicked in a way. It would have taken months to get there otherwise. He’s got a good story brain that guy.”
“Lorena” premieres February 15 on Amazon Prime Video. Watch IndieWire’s Sundance video with director Joshua Rofé and subject Lorena Gallo in the video below.