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Rebecca Hall on Playing '70s TV Reporter Christine Chubbuck, Who Killed Herself On-Air: 'It's a Story of Someone Trying to Survive Against the Odds'

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When Rebecca Hall signed on to play Sun Coast Digest host Christine Chubbuck – the 29-year-old TV reporter who committed suicide live on-air in 1974 – she knew it was a role that would have people talking.

“I look at the film as a character study,” the Christine actress, 33, told TimesTalk moderator Cara Buckley at the Cinema Café at the Sundance Film Festival on Tuesday. “It’s not some social critique of journalism and it was never intended to be.”

Christine Chubbuck

Instead, Hall says, “it’s a story of someone trying survive against the odds of society and themselves.”

Christine is one of two films related to Chubbuck that was selected to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, which is currently underway in Park City, Utah.

The other, Kate Plays Christine, is a documentary by director Robert Greene that follows House of Cards actress Kate Lyn Sheil as she prepare to play the role in a forthcoming movie.

The Chubbuck family is not embracing either film, telling PEOPLE they are still reeling from the loss of their beloved Christine more than 40 years after her death – and are skeptical that the films will do her justice.

Rebecca Hall in Christine.
Joe Anderson/Sundance Institute/AP

“Nobody wants to know who Christine Chubbuck was,” says Christine’s brother, Greg Chubbuck. “They want to sensationalize what happened at the end of her life. A public suicide is not a source of joy for a family.”

Greg also says his sister struggled with bipolar disorder, a condition that was not solved after her parents spent more than $1 million in treatments over the course of 20 years to “help Chrissie find peace.”

Chubbuck’s death helped inspire the 1976 film Network in 1976, and Hall says she recognizes how Chubbuck’s tragic death continues to strike a chord in today’s world of the 24-hour news cycle.

“The fact of how she did it and the time in America that it was when there was this mainstream turn in journalism towards more sensationalist, more ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ reporting,” she says. “I think that gives it a kind of significance that means that it works on many, many levels.”

“But I think primarily it’s a film about feelings,” she adds.