What do we mean by “a true story”?

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” ― Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.” – Pablo Picasso

It’s said that there’s really no such thing as a true story.

It’s probably impossible to tell any story without some degree of bias.

Even when the facts or events can be agreed upon, interpretation of their significance and impact on the story will vary according to the point of view of the person telling it.

image from Banksy’s Facebook Revolution

As no two people view the world in an identical way, it probably stands to reason that certain aspects and details of a story will have more importance – or maybe even a different meaning – in one storyteller’s version of events from another’s.

So why use the phrase “true story”?

What does that term actually mean to us?

Certain types of falsehoods in a story deemed to be “true” upset us more than others.

And there are probably few more meaningless phrases than “based on a true story“.

So where does the line between fiction and non-fiction actually lie?

And does it even matter as long as it’s a good story?

We Bought a Zoo is a 2011 comedy-drama film based on the 2008 memoir of the same name by Benjamin Mee about his experiences in purchasing the Dartmoor Wildlife Park in Devonshire, England in 2006. In the film the story has been relocated to the US and the zoo is called “Rosemoor”.

Finding Neverland is a 2004 semi-biographical film about playwright J. M. Barrie and his relationship with a family who inspired him to create Peter Pan. The biggest story invention in the film is the absence of the boys’ father, Arthur Davies, who was alive when Barrie befriended his wife and children. He died before his boys were grown, but not until ten years after his family met Barrie.

KONY 2012 is a short film created by Invisible Children, Inc. and released on March 5, 2012, with the the purpose of promoting the charity’s “Stop Kony” movement to make Ugandan indicted war criminal and International Criminal Court fugitive Joseph Kony globally known, in order to have him arrested by December 2012. The film was widely criticised for its oversimplification of events in the region, some argued it was to the point of misrepresentation.


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