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Abel Raises Cain cover photo

Abel Raises Cain 2009


Distributed by Distributed by ABEL RAISES CAIN, LLC, 323.229.7167
Produced by Jenny Abel
Directed by Jenny Abel and Jeff Hockett
DVD, color, 88 min.

Jr. High - Adult
Broadcast Journalism, Satire, Performance Art

Date Entered: 05/10/2010

Reviewed by Christopher Lewis, American University Library, American University

For those who don’t remember Alan Abel from his many appearances on daytime talk shows in the 1970s, he’s a satirist and performance artist whose specialty is the media hoax. Over the course of a career that spanned from the late 1950s to the present he’s concocted dozens of pranks that news departments nationwide have picked up and spread to the masses. Among them: “the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals” whose mission was to clothe naked animals; “Omar’s School for Beggars” ; an arranged marriage for Idi Amin to make him an American citizen; a fainting epidemic on the Phil Donahue Show; a campaign to ban breastfeeding because it fostered incestuous relationships and other bad habits; a faked lottery winner; and even staging his own death to see his obituary in the New York Times.

Though not heard of much these days Abel is still among us and his irreverent spirit is still intact. This documentary is the work of his loving daughter Jenny, with Jeff Hockett, who undoubtedly realized her father is a national treasure and deserves to be immortalized. They succeed at capturing many of the highlights of his life and document Alan and his wife, Jeanne, as they struggle to make ends meet in their advancing years. The Abels are still fighting the good fight having foregone more lucrative occupations in pursuit of the really clever prank.

As we’ve transited to the snarky age of the likes of Punk’d and Howard Stern, Abel’s work appears almost quaint. It probably won’t find much of an audience among younger viewers but those with memories of his many media appearances or interested in journalism or media literacy will find this an enthralling piece. Recommended.

  • Grand Jury Prize, Best Documentary, 2005 Slamdance Film Festival
  • Audience Award, Best Documentary, 2006 Sarasota Film Festival
  • Special Jury Award, Best Documentary, 2005 Newport International Film Festival