Film-maker fascinated by Steve Jobs cult

NEW YORK • Four years after his death, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs still fascinates the public, with two major new films this autumn analysing his life and career.

For award-winning documentary film-maker Alex Gibney, it is also time for re-assessing the hard-driving perfectionist who revolutionised the way people communicate but whose treatment of friends, family and co-workers was sometimes rife with contradiction.

Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine breaks no new ground. But it contrasts the man who once aspired to be a Buddhist monk with the businessman who initially denied paternity of his first child and presided over a company that paid Chinese iPhone makers a pittance and pared back its philanthropic programmes while reaping billions in profits. "He had the focus of a monk, but none of the empathy," Gibney comments in the film, whose tagline is "Bold. Brilliant. Brutal."

The documentary, arriving in American movie theatres on Sept 4, uses archival footage of Jobs as well as interviews with journalists, some former friends and ex-Apple employees. Both Apple and Jobs' widow Laurene declined to cooperate. Gibney said he did not set out to vilify Jobs, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2011. "The imperative for me to make this film was why so many people who didn't know Jobs were weeping when he left."

Apple, he added, has a cult aspect that fascinates him. "There is a passion for the person and the products that is so deep that any criticism can't be tolerated. Why should that be? Is it not possible that we can discuss how pitifully paid are the workers in China... even as we may admire some of the technological aspects of the Apple product?

"There seems to be a need to deify that stuff in a way that brooks all criticism, and that does verge sometimes on the religious."

There is one question he would have liked to ask Jobs, given the chance, Gibney said.

"He kept talking about values, the values of Apple. I would have asked him, 'what are your values?' "

Another film, Steve Jobs, starring Michael Fassbender as the late Apple CEO, is due for release in October and in Singapore in January. REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2015, with the headline 'Film-maker fascinated by Steve Jobs cult'. Print Edition | Subscribe