What happens when a documentary turns the camera back on itself? Or when its subject tries to hijack the film? In the rather unconventional Scottish short doc "Tapes From The Revolutionary", we see one such result of these unexpected escapades. The man behind the camera? Edinburgh-based filmmaker Scott Willis. The man that’s supposed to be front of the camera? Self-proclaimed communist revolutionary and camcorder aficionado, Andy. The result of the two artists’ clashing visions? Total understated genius.
Quite the character, Andy was filming with a Hi-8 camcorder when Willis found him. Intrigued by the footage on Andy's tapes, Willis decided this exploration into why and what we film would be a good subject for a documentary. Well, it seems Willis may have underestimated the supposedly simple man with an old camera. What he discovers is that Andy is someone constantly fighting for that seat in the saddle behind the camera, hands on reins and riding off into a cinematic sunset of his own choosing. Willis is a trained filmmaker and Andy? Well, he fancies himself quite the documentarian. In the end, this 16-min short is bizarrely humorous, surprisingly poignant, and all a touch philosophical. Filling in the cracks are musings about the filmmaking process that keep revealing themselves in the most enjoyable, offbeat ways. A film that seemed to have somewhat of a defined purpose at the beginning suddenly goes off the rails, becoming increasingly experimental and all the more memorable in its quirks.
With glimpses of Andy as well as the Willis of today and flashbacks of a young Willis from the past, what we get here is a self-awareness to film as a medium. By studying the subject of the film, the filmmaker starts to study himself and why he chose to even make films in the first place. Analog and digital cameras both reveal an underlying message on the evolution of the role of the lens. The storytelling choices Willis then puts into play create a sort of playground to show and be shown. Guards are down, the fourth wall is broken and a 360 degree film is born. If you appreciate experimental docs, film reflexivity, and the role of storytelling in general, this absurd yet lovable little short is a total must watch. Its extensive run on the international festival circuit should be enough to prove that Willis is certainly a talent to keep on your radar!
In the end, two "directors" with two very different visions weave quite the tale, leaving the audience wondering, why do we choose to document our lives? What should we show? Who is our audience? What is it like seeing the world through someone else’s eyes? Find out by watching "Tapes From The Revolutionary” via Indie Street now!