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Protagonist (2007)

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Jessica Yu's documentary explores the relationship between human life and Euripidean dramatic structure by weaving together the stories of four men: German terrorist, a bank robber, an "ex-gay" evangelist, and a martial arts student.


Jessica Yu


Jessica Yu
1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »



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Credited cast:
Hans-Joachim Klein Hans-Joachim Klein ... Himself
Mark Salzman Mark Salzman ... Himself
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Chris Diamantopoulos ... Ancient Greek Narrator (voice)
Joe Loya Joe Loya ... Himself
Mark Pierpont Mark Pierpont ... Himself
Marina Sirtis ... Ancient Greek Narrator (voice)


Jessica Yu's documentary explores the relationship between human life and Euripidean dramatic structure by weaving together the stories of four men: German terrorist, a bank robber, an "ex-gay" evangelist, and a martial arts student.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Character is fate. See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language





English | German | Greek

Release Date:

January 2007 (USA) See more »


Box Office


$800,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$4,495, 2 December 2007, Limited Release
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



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Did You Know?


Features Kung Fu (1972) See more »

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User Reviews

We Don't Care About Protagonists Because They're Heroes But Because We Follow Their Mental State.
21 November 2009 | by jzappaSee all my reviews

It is about various completely separate men battling hero worship to become their own heroes in their own lives, since no one else seemed to them to want the position. Some of them worship God and Jesus. Some of them worship Cane on Kung Fu. Some of them worship their father. And they all have to somehow fight betrayal and cruelty and find the strength to be completely and purely honest with themselves. Apparently, this parallels Euripidean dramatic structure, as many actions narrated by the film's subjects are recounted by expressive wooden puppets on a puppet-sized Greek stage, and these men's stories do not necessarily display clear-cut origins to motivate things, episodes of the plot are spaced out and the activity displaced, though working as crucial aspects. The nature of what these men experience and become lies beyond the clarification of science and leans toward the chance turns of the cosmos and civilization alike, the inexplicable compulsions which continue to function regardless of common insight and the impartial alignment of rationality.

The notion of a protagonist here is not one of a hero who takes it upon himself to, as he always has and will, save the day. It is of a more personally inspirational nature than that. All these subjects were victims at some point. Whether they become any sort of savior or hero in society or not is no matter because they become that for themselves. Actually, society is in every case the antagonist by some degree of separation.

I do not know how Jessica Yu, the writer-director of this purely original and very creative documentary, found her subjects, whether or not she had already known something of their lives enough to see that they applied to her theme, if she knew some of them beforehand, if she conducted interviews with various prospects before finding those who applied the best and thus narrowed it down to them or what. It is the approach behind the subjects of any documentary, but the central theme here is purely cerebral, nothing you can put out an add for or scout a certain region for. It requires an extra amount of shrewdness and insight. Yu's emotionally cued interspersions of puppets on a stage, as well as all other visual parallels, depend on the circumstances of each of them. Errol Morris would be proud of her achievement.

What it becomes for us---as we become enthralled with each episode, are then taken out of it all for a second when the film shifts to another of the "protagonists," and then get enthralled all over again---is a meditation on the idea of a story's central character. It takes us awhile to put together all the pieces of a given one of them, and once that happens, we don't have to like what we see. So why do we continue to look? Because we hope for a change, whether for them or their situation. It is not their responsibility to make sure we like them, but to be honest with themselves about who they are and what they want, so that we can fully understand why we like them, or why we don't. Personally, I found something endearing about each of the four men. It's not a matter of how well a protagonist meets our standards; it's a matter of exercising our ability to accept.

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