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Simon Read [Celluloid 07.05.13] United Kingdom documentary

How does one make a Bigfoot documentary these days? Like the Loch Ness Monster, the legend of the Sasquatch seems quaint and old fashioned - not to mention so obviously untrue - compared to modern conspiracy theories. It lacks the sci-fi appeal of UFOs and alien abductions, and the immediacy and scandal of political scheming. Morgan Matthews' Shooting Bigfoot solves this problem by showing no interest whatsoever in actually finding Bigfoot, but instead turning the camera on the people who still search for him. It's an entertaining documentary with a lot of potential, but it's main flaw is a lack of purpose and commentary. Matthews fails to offer any kind of constructive thoughts or opinion on what he's filming, and while his subjects may be amusing - and in some cases downright pathetic - it's not always fair to present them to an audience solely for this reason.

I can see why it was tempting though. When we're introduced to the three respective groups of men whom Morgan follows, each one is uniquely feeble and unprepared. Dallas Gilbert and Wayne Burton are a couple of bewildered old redneck coots who seem to find a sense of purpose and belonging by driving up to the hills together and standing outside their pick-up truck while making whooping noises. They leave cans of mackerel just outside of the tree-line in the hope that it will lure out a Bigfoot. They eat hotdogs. They've been doing this for eighteen years. These guys are, shockingly, the least objectionable of the lot.

Tom Biscardi is probably the most professional Bigfoot-Hunter and certainly the most discourteous. He's made several documentaries himself, including Bigfoot Lives and Bigfoot Lives 2. Tom corrals a group of misfits, including a Native American tracker and a former SEAL, into coming along with him on what may be his last formal hunt. This guy is something else; a loudmouth buffoon who treats his men like lackeys and demands ice-cool Snapples whenever he gets stressed-out, which is often. He's a graceless man who manages at once to be both pompous and stultifyingly ignorant. His temper and attitude win him few friends, but his confidence seems to work to his advantage, and while his feelings towards Morgan tend to turn on a dime depending on the line of questioning, there's no denying his appreciation of good publicity.

The most curious subject of the film however is Rick Dyer. Rick is a former correctional officer who travels into a patch of woodland mostly inhabited by the homeless. He's tracked down the caller from a famous Bigfoot related 911 call posted on Youtube, and discovers her living in a makeshift campsite. Inspired by her sketchy recollection ("It was big and it smelled real bad") Rick decides to set-up a tent a few hundred metres away and spends the weekend sitting in just his shorts with his rifle on his lap. What strikes one about Rick is the tremendous sense of loneliness which radiates from him. He always wanted to be a cowboy and so wears the hat, boots and spurs, but sees his obsession as a foolish pipe dream and so he's settled for hunting Bigfoot instead. He seems to like having the camera around as he potters about the forest during the day, but becomes belligerent and angry during the long nights when Morgan tries to question his motives and asks about his personal life. To be fair, I would be annoyed with Morgan too, and it seems clear that the elephant-in-the-camp is that Rick just wants the chance to be alone and feel useful. But the question of 'Why' is what's interesting. Why not just go camping, or fishing? Why not visit a regular campsite instead of living for a weekend in this depressing hole? Why Bigfoot? Rick's segment has the most dramatic and ultimately depressing ending, and while it's sadly amusing, we are given no real answers.

Examining the lives of obsessive individuals can make for riveting viewing, such as in the peerless documentary American Movie about hapless filmmaker Mark Borchardt and his misguided attempts at making a classic horror film with a micro-budget and zero-talent. British journalists Jon Ronson and Louis Theroux have both documented their journeys with some of the strangest people out there, and made some terrific films in the process. Morgan Matthew's film just falls short of being genuinely praise-worthy though, as although it offers a snap-shot of its participants lives, it's a work which lacks a social understanding of what's taking place, and frequently there is an indulgently voyeuristic quality which is exacerbated by his tendency to badger his subjects into irritability.

There are individual moments in the film that hint at something deeper, such as when Wayne offers a distressed alcoholic woman a five dollar bill and tells her to buy some food, or Rick asking a young man how he can be homeless when he appears to be so normal. Matthews' film touches on these issues but it doesn't dwell, and sometimes it seems as though he's realized that by discarding the Bigfoot angle early on and embracing the weird, he's occasionally overwhelmed when it comes to dealing with the real.

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T (5 years ago) Reply

So obviously untrue is it? You so obviously have no clue.


projectcyclops (5 years ago) Reply that you, Tom?

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