While The Imitation Game has been making a splash with reviewers and audiences, it’s not the only film you can watch about the genius Alan Turing. I’m the Executive Producer and Creator of Codebreaker, an award-winning feature-length drama documentary about Alan Turing’s life and legacy. If you’re familiar with The Imitation Game, you know that Turing was the father of computer science and a heroic World War II codebreaker.
Instead of receiving accolades, Turing faced terrible persecution for being gay. In 1952, the British Government forced him to undergo chemical castration as punishment for his homosexuality. In despair, he eventually committed suicide.
I first came across Alan Turing’s story during a trip to the Smithsonian Museum of American History. After learning about Turing’s accomplishments and the persecution he suffered for being gay, I was inspired to make a film about him so more people would learn about his life and legacy.
As a gay man, I was drawn to this story because I wanted more people to recognize his brilliance and understand the terrible injustice he suffered (though it’s important to point out that tens of thousands of other British men faced prosecution for the same “crime”). LGBT people are often deleted from history. I wanted to help make sure that didn’t happen with Alan Turing.
Almost five years ago, I partnered with Furnace, a British production company, to help bring this story to life. Eventually, Channel 4 in the United Kingdom got behind the project and broadcast it in November of 2011. So far, the film has attracted an enthusiastic worldwide audience of more than two million people. In the US, we had a 12-city limited theatrical release. Discovery Science premiered the film on cable in the US. It has been featured on TV in more than 20 countries. Codebreaker is now available on DVD, Netflix, iTunes, and other digital outlets.
This film takes a different approach from The Imitation Game to tell Turing’s story. Whereas the Hollywood version of this story mainly focuses on Turing’s work at Bletchley Park to decipher the German Enigma code, Codebreaker also examines in detail Turing’s other intellectual achievements in mathematical biology, artificial intelligence, and most importantly computer science. Turing laid the intellectual foundation for our modern computer age. That’s why the highest honor in computer science is called the Turing Award.
Codebreaker also explores in great detail the tragic events that led to Turing’s arrest, prosecution, and subsequent suicide. Viewers learn about the emotional and physical toll that Turing suffered from the chemical castration he was forced to endure.
Codebreaker is a drama-documentary that incorporates engaging reconstructions to bring Turing to life in intricate detail and high color. Documentary elements seamlessly interconnect with drama scenes to offer a three-dimensional picture of Turing, his accomplishments, his tragic end, and his lasting legacy.
Built on a solid historical foundation of true events, the dramatic scenes focus on the therapy sessions that Turing underwent during the last 18 months of his life. Turing undertook voluntary psychotherapy with a German Jewish analyst. Unlike most psychiatrists and psychoanalysts of the day, Dr. Franz Greenbaum had enlightened views about homosexuality. Greenbaum took an interest in Turing’s mathematical insights and their patient/therapist relationship eventually became a friendship as Turing made increasingly frequent social visits to the Greenbaum home. Anchoring the film in the therapy sessions allows the audience to emotionally engage with Turing; to identify and sympathize with this outsider genius.
The drama scenes star Ed Stoppard as Alan Turing and Henry Goodman as his psychotherapist, Dr. Franz Greenbaum. Stoppard's many credits include the Academy Award winning feature film The Pianist and the BBC series Upstairs Downstairs. Goodman is an accomplished stage and screen actor with credits including Yes, Prime Minister, The Damned United, and Taking Woodstock.
The documentary sequences support the drama scenes and provide context to the narrative. Testimony from the most charismatic experts in the world of technology and high science bring Turing’s extraordinary scientific contributions into the 21st century. We also include important voices from Turing’s own time. This is undoubtedly the last opportunity for us to hear from the men and women who knew and remember him. These accomplished scientific experts, historians, and Turing contemporaries supplement the drama scenes, add context to the story, and create a more complete portrait of Turing.
Even though The Imitation Game has historical inaccuracies, it’s a compelling film that is helping Alan Turing’s amazing legacy reach many more people. Codebreaker is another way for you to learn about his remarkable, inspiring, and tragic story.