Many connections can be made through social networking, but obscure actor Rob Stewart made the ultimate one that also changed his life.
Through Facebook, Stewart discovered a TV show he starred in 20 years ago called Tropical Heat had taken on a new life in Serbia. A Serbian punk band named Atheist Rap contacted Rob and offered an opportunity where Rob could perform with them during a song dedicated to Stewart’s Tropical Heat character Nick Slaughter. Stewart agreed and before you can say “Slaughtermania”, Rob and his filmmaking pals Liza and Marc Vespi were on a plane headed for Serbia. The reception they received during their two-week stay was unforgettable.
Slaughter Nick for President is a bundle of fun – mostly because Stewart comes off as a nice, charismatic guy deserving enough to be recognized for his work. It’s delightful to see avid fans approach him for photos and to shake his hand. It’s as if Stewart has entered a whole other universe – one that’s completely different from his homestead in Brampton, ON.
There are even some moments where art imitates life. In a hilarious scene where Stewart is approached to star in a commercial for a product he’s unclear of while he reads his lines in an inflatable bubble, we can’t help but think of Bill Murray’s overwhelmed presence on the set of a game show in Lost in Translation.
As Stewart finds out more from Serbian sources, audiences can’t help but be in awe as well. During harsher times in Serbia when student protests were taking place against former Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, the overall vibes and outlooks were very bleak. People would turn to Tropical Heat for the bright colours, Slaughter’s brand of humour, and for the silly action. This audience found optimism in Stewart’s Hawaiian shirts and ponytail.
Slaughter Nick for President lets audiences now just how effective escapist entertainment can be. Some may see these types of films and television as schlock, but this documentary shows just how much of an impact this entertainment can have in the places you wouldn’t have even thought of.
Though this new information about Stewart’s career is interesting and flooring, the moments where Stewart interviews various Serbians is where the documentary slowly comes to a halt.
Simply, the film needed more cameras and an editor who knew how to keep the interest high during talking head one-on-ones. The one camera set-up ensues long takes where the interviewee gabs and gabs and the lack of cutting makes these interviews drone on and on. In the film’s defence, they try to keep things moving by adding older news footage, stills, and fade-to-white transitions, but it just isn’t enough to satisfy moviegoers.
The energy diminishes partly because Stewart and company are brimming with energy during these initial scenes as they drink in Serbian culture. When this excitement takes extended breaks, it seriously affects the audience’s ability to stay as energized.
But, Slaughter Nick for President always knows how to return to form. One of the more rewarding scenes in the documentary – and one of the catchiest scenes I’ve seen recently – involves that climactic night where Rob Stewart assists Atheist Rap during their song ‘Slaughteru Nietzsche’ as a crowd full of young punks bounce around. It’s unreal for Stewart but as we’ve watched how everything has unfolded and led to this vibrant event, it’s equally as surreal and electric.