OTTAWA PREMIERE | STARTS NOVEMBER 14
Canadas never had an action hero, says self-proclaimed martial arts expert Elliot Scott in the unbridled documentary Kung Fu Elliot. Elliot gives audiences a glimpse into the world and the markedly eccentric mind of a man hoping to make a splash on the Canadian film scene. Elliot, a Halifax-based amateur filmmaker, offers a behind-the-scenes invitation into the production of his third feature Blood Fight. Kung Fu Elliot, which comes to Hot Docs after a win for Best Documentary Feature at the Slamdance Film Festival, gives an entertainingly ironic example for why the Canadian film scene has yet to find its own Chuck Norris (and probably never will).
Elliot is less a Chuck Norris of the Maritimes and more a regular Corky St. Claire with his quirky ambition for amateur production and affable delusions of grandeur. He prides himself on his karate skills and his one-fifth Japanese heritage, and his relationship with his Chinese-Canadian girlfriend Linda hints that an element of cultural fascination (if not fetishism) underlies his escapist quest to be Canadas first martial artist of the movies.
Archival footage of their first film, They Killed My Cat, offers some hilarious insight into the farfetchedness of Elliots dream of making it big. He makes schlock. The movies are B-level pics at a modest appraisal or hokey diversions that make the Harry Knuckles films look like John Woo. Theyre films that please fans of Saturday night cinema, so anyone with a taste for grungy alternative film will love the behind-the-scenes madness of Kung Fu Elliot.
What Elliot lacks in talent, though, he multiplies in spirit. His stab at making Blood Flightmakes Kung Fu Elliot an admirable snapshot of the spirit of do-it-yourself independent filmmaking thats bringing a wave of ambitious micro-budget features to the Canadian film scene. Elliot, however, is no Ingrid Veningermaybe she should do the next Maplecore butt-kicking extravaganzaand his idiosyncratic approach to making movies is at best a scattershot process. Kung Fu Elliot offers scenes of Elliot and Linda shooting some unintentionally funny footage on cheap home movie camcorders. A grand pyrotechnic shot, for example, sees Elliot light a bunch of fireworks on a ground-level windowsill and jump out the window onto a mattress. Linda, who is shooting the scene, simply grumbles that Elliot is an idiot and that his snazzy effects are burning her plants.
Elliot and Linda make the movies together, although she takes a decidedly non-nonsense approach to both their personal and working relationships. Elliot might be the artist, but Lindas the one with all the pragmatic business sense. The movies clearly take their toll on the couples relationship. Kung Fu Elliot chronicles two years in the lives of these passionate filmmakers and their eccentric collaborators, yet nothing seems to progress in their personal relationship.
Linda wants a marriage proposal, but Elliot dances around commitment. She plays the role of the breadwinner while Elliot runs around making crappy movies all day. Its a parent-child relationship more than it is a romantic one, and Kung Fu Elliot might be most fascinating for how it inadvertently it captures the elusive dream of succeeding as an independent filmmaker in Canada. A consistent income and practical dimensionsboth of which are Lindas ideas and are facts of the business that elude Elliotcould viably lead to some respectable productions.
Filmmakers Matthew Bauckman and Jaret Belliveau (who also shot and edited the film) follow Elliot during his rocky production of Blood Fight, but they find that the greater fiction is Elliots own life. The lies he tells himself are more interesting and they are staged far more convincingly than his hokey martial arts flicks. A powerful confessional moment in which Linda examines Elliots life for the camera unearths all sorts of elaborate lies that Elliot uses to blanket his life and create a star persona. The problem, however, is that Elliot only really convinces himself. He essentially plays a role for the camera and invents the persona of Elliot Scott to give himself the starring role he fails to realize in Blood Fight. Its a striking performance that reveals the fictions people invent when theyre placed before a camera and made subjects of non-fiction films.
Big screen Skype q&a with directors Matthew Bauckman and Jaret Belliveau after the Ottawa Premiere of Kung Fu Elliot on Friday November 14th!