For the past two weeks the Vue Piccadilly has played host to London’s alternative film festival; Raindance. Raindance is set up to showcase independent films and in the past has uncovered the talents of many current Hollywood heavy hitters including the likes of Christopher Nolan. Towards the end of last week I realised I had been wildly unsuccessful at seeing any films at the festival so reached out to get any online screeners I could and had my own mini festival at home.
Here is what I saw.
Kung Fu Elliot
Directors Matthew Bauckman and Jaret Belliveau set out to study the real life character that is Elliot Scott, a delusional man with an Asian fetish who aspires to be Canada’s own kung fu film star. The film starts out as a Canadian version of American Movie as the cameras follow Elliot filming what he describes as “respectable cheese”. In reality Elliot is making the lowest budget action films you can imagine; filming on a cheap digital stills camera with the aid of amateur actors and his long-suffering girlfriend Linda. As is often the case with delusional personalities such as Elliot it is hard to decide how aware he is of his own delusions; how much he believes his own lies and fantasies and how much he is putting it on for effect.
The first half of the film plays out in a predictable, if highly amusing, fashion as Elliot flounders around filming one terrible scene after another. The film then takes an unexpected turn, one that was presumably just as unexpected for Bauckman and Belliveau, when Elliot travels to China and suddenly his loyalty to Linda appears to weaken and some of what he has claimed so far starts to look less and less likely. To quote Elliot directly, “you can take the ugliest Chinese woman and she’s still better looking than the prettiest Canadian girl”. Elliot starts to display a racist and reductive love for everything Asian and by the end of the film reveals himself to be a troubled man with a short temper and surprising perversions.
With Elliot Bauckman and Belliveau have stumbled upon a truly fascinating and ultimately disturbing character. What started out as a fun documentary ended up leaving me a little unsettled and certain revelations took me completely by surprise. Kung Fu Elliot is an engaging portrait of a baffling man and I urge you to take a look. The film screens at Raindance tonight, buy tickets here, and hopefully will get a release someday soon.
Written & directed by and starring Anton Saunders Fourever is a British drama about love and revenge. Under the guise of throwing a reunion party Johny (Anton Saunders) gathers three old friends together in order to settle old scores and address, and potentially reenact, a tragic moment in their collective history. By doing this he hopes to fix his past and win back the woman he loves.
Fourever is an impressive debut from Saunders and he steals his own film as the tightly wound Johny trying to take control of a situation he has orchestrated but is struggling to contain. The film plays with the idea of film-making as Johny, played by the film’s writer and director, tries to directly manipulate people’s actions and dictate what they say.
While I did find the central idea interesting I struggled to connect to the film and ultimately felt like the plot would have been better served in a short film rather than a feature. The meat of the film was in its conclusion and despite the austere running time there were moments when the film seemed to be treading water rather than moving forwards. A bold but imperfect debut.
Seth’s Dominion is a short and sweet documentary from Luc Chamberland exploring the world of Canadian comic artist Seth. Seth is known for writing semi-autobiographical comics that muse on the mundanity of everyday life rather than the fantastical pursuits of superheroes, a style of comics that I thankfully prefer myself. Over forty minutes we take a peek into his personal life and his work process; a process I admired as he dedicates far more time to personal projects than commercial work.
Seth comes across as a unique and driven creative force; a man who has cultivated a persona not just in his writings but in crafting his house and personal appearance. Interspersed throughout the film are short animated films that retell some of Seth’s stories in his own voice and visual style allowing us to not only witness the man but his work as well.
Despite not being overly familiar with Seth’s work I loved this documentary. It was a small love letter to an artist and a human being and showcased his aesthetic beautifully.