Wylie Writes @ Hot Docs 2014: Crouching Arpaio, Hidden Elliot

Kung Fu Elliot (DIR. Matthew Bauckman & Jaret Belliveau)


By: Addison Wylie

Matthew Bauckman and Jaret Belliveau’s Slamdance favourite Kung Fu Elliot goes through three stages.

First, there’s the ultra cheese.  Elliot Scott (also known as “White Lightning”) is a martial arts expert and is set on being Canada’s first notable action star.  He’s produced a few independent films to which he also peddles out.  The films shine of lo-fi aesthetics, but it’s hard to not turn away from a film titled They Killed My Cat.

Scott and his longtime girlfriend Linda (who wears various hats behind-the-scenes on Scott’s movies) realize how campy their material is, but they hope to deliver on cultural essentials.  Bauckman and Belliveau are hyper-aware of the absurdity which holds the flick back from being the next Beauty Day or American Movie, but they have fun with these two nonetheless.

Then, the film hits a frazzled period.  Scott reveals that he’s much more of a hexagonal subject than the cubed image the doc’s director’s thought he was.  When a trip to China enters the picture, we see some of Scott’s flaws.  It’s fascinating stuff, but we realize how important Linda is to the story.  She keeps Scott grounded.

Then, there’s the doc’s unbelievable last act.  Not unbelievable in a way where the doc starts to break its own sense of reality.  It’s bonkers for reasons that shouldn’t be discussed but rather discovered.

Quirks turn into something much more pathological and corrupt as we see faithfulness and promise collapse like a house of cards.  It’s a cinematic transformation like no other, and it truly made me feel sick.  That’s – surprisingly – a compliment.

Personally, Kung Fu Elliot was a one-time watch, but the filmmakers receive utmost admiration.  This’ll undoubtably earn cult notoriety once more people can see it.  It’ll make your head spin.

Catch Kung Fu Elliot at Toronto’s Hot Docs International Film Festival on:

Thursday, May 1 at 3:30 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre

Friday, May 2 at 9:30 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre

Click here for more details and to buy tickets.


The Joe Show (DIR. Randy Murray)


By: Parker Mott

Sheriff Joe Arpaio is first seen in The Joe Show sitting in an interview chair clumsily reciting Sid Vicious’s “My Way” (remember that punk tune that closed Goodfellas?).  It’s documentarian Randy Murray’s flippant method of implying that Arpaio is the William Shatner of county sheriffs.  This showcasing of buffoonery reaches no standard of savvy exposé.  It’s pure derision – a tactic to disarm Arpaio of any pretext of seriousness.

And that’s what The Joe Show does – and quite effectively.  It blatantly debunks the cult of personality Arpaio and his adherents have fashioned over his years as five-time elected sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona.  The film’s first half focuses on Joe’s home life with wife Ava and also how he and his spokeswoman Lisa Allen contrive his media personality.  As they start to prepare for the 2012 election against Democrat Paul Penzone, Murray unleashes certain details, such as Joe’s stance on immigration, that could make Joe eligible for indictment, or at the very least racial discrimination.

Like Errol Morris in The Unknown Known, Murray is fascinated by a politician who is in constant denial of his wrongdoings.  Murray, however, doesn’t match Morris’s political convictions and taste for provocation.  He doesn’t break down Joe’s bigotry with informed arguments, but merely adapts the status quo.  The documentary is always enjoyable, but has an air of two-dimensionality spread throughout it.  Murray successfully – and comically – demonstrates that Joe is a racist fool, but with reasons that make the reality seem black-and-white.  Or maybe Joe is that loco.

Catch The Joe Show at Toronto’s Hot Docs International Film Festival on:

Thursday, May 1 at 6:30 p.m. @ ROM Theatre

Click here for more details and to buy tickets.

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