Raindance Film Festival – Review – Life’s a Bitch / Kung Fu Elliot ★★★★

The feature opened with Canadian short film Life is a Bitch, a short film experience I definitely recommend to readers. It is a very visceral and very “real” description of love, loss, overcoming pain and starting again. The film boasts 95 scenes in a total of five minutes which makes it a bit of a whirlwind at times, but then again, life has a tendency of being that too. You can watch a clip here >

But what of Kung Fu Elliot? It has definitely been making the rounds of the documentary filmmaking scene; between a showing at the HotDocs, the Jury Award for Best Documentary at Slamdance and the Audience Award for Best Documentary at Fantastic Fest it hasn’t been doing too badly for itself either.

The disclaimer “this is totally unscripted, everything you see is real” has become one that one approaches with a pinch or two of salt. Think Paranormal Activity. Think Borat. Or go old-school and think Blair Witch Project if you prefer. Yet this is the exact disclaimer producer David Eberts felt the need to make to the audience in person at the showing of Kung Fu Elliot at Raindance. He needn’t have worried. Elliot Scott is so much larger than life and his artistic endeavours are so original that he simply has to be real. I am pretty certain that only real life could come up with a character so completely out of the ordinary.

Eliot “White Lighting” Scott is a filmmaker. He has completed 5 films to date in which he has acted, directed and written the script. The films are filmed using point and shoot cameras on tripods, the special effects are achieved using cardboard boxes and fireworks. Elliot’s cinematic aim? To become Canada’s first ever action hero. But if you thought this film was about a dreamer with a penchant for filmmaking, you are sadly mistaken. It is true that Elliot will stop at simply nothing in his quest, this documentary even sees him in China, exchanging blows (well, almost) with Shaolin monks. But there is more to it, a lot more. As the film wears on, more and more of Elliot’s life gets uncovered, and the more we see, the more we realise that Elliot incorporates “fiction” into his life in more ways than one.

The film is a very intimate movie as the two directors and their cameras followed Elliot Scott, his long-suffering girlfriend Linda and his motley crew of filmmakers around for what would end up being a total of two years. There will be moments that will have you simply hooting with laughter. But around the half way mark, the film begins to take a slightly darker turn which makes us realise Elliot is not the simple “buffoon” we may have thought him to be at first. And a buffoon is definitely not what the crew of Kung Fu Elliot are trying to project him as.

In the Q&A after the film, producer David Eberts made it quite clear that Elliot and his crew were people the two directors saw practically every day in their day to day lives and whom they considered friends. Besides, delusional he may be, dishonest, definitely (Eberts amused the audience by telling of how Elliot had, during high school, dressed up in full “Goth” paraphernalia and had managed to convince a lot of people he was actually in a Japanese rock band) but Elliot is no fool. Eberts is quick to point out that Elliot has, by one way or another, actually finished five feature films to date unlike some of his would be critics who haven’t even reached the point where they have finished a script. And let’s be honest, while you may not exactly be a fan of Elliot’s style which is very much his own, surely any filmmaker can recognise the burning desire to finish a project against all the odds and no matter what.

In short, while Kung Fu Elliot is simply hilarious in parts, don’t fall into the trap of taking it lightly. On a personal level I am grateful that Bauckman and Belliveau for having borrowed the cameras (the project was completely self-funded) and overcame all the logistical problems to bring the story of Elliot Scott to the world. Mind you, shall I tell you something? Elliot Scott is such a larger than life character, I am pretty sure he would have somehow found his way to our screens regardless.

A native of Istanbul, Turkey, Sedef moved to London three years ago to get her MA in Film Studies and never quite got round to going back home. As she once worked in a DVD company and watched films for a living, she started a personal blog (essiespeaks.blogspot.com) as a short answer to being constantly asked “watched anything interesting recently?” and loved blogging so much she just kept typing . She is the biggest Tarantino fan she knows and would be unable to choose a single film of his as a favourite.