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Kung Fu Elliot (2014)

by on 2015/07/31

kungfu_elliot_2015“Tell them I am like Jackie Chan …but from Canada.”

* * * *

May I burn in eternal hellfire if I ever make fun of any of the people in this documentary.

I sometimes wonder how I might come off if a documentary film crew followed me around all day. Under that kind of scrutiny, I don’t think anyone comes off well. Ever.

In my case, it would probably be one of the dullest documentaries ever made.

For all the things I might say about Elliot ‘White Lightning’ Scott, the star, pivot point, subject, eye of the hurricane featured in Kung Fu Elliot, he doesn’t make for a dull documentary.

Quite the contrary. This 2014 movie by New Brunswick-born filmmakers Matthew Bauckman and Jaret Belliveau starts off unassuming and then roundhouse kicks you right in the feels.

I felt a lot of things watching Kung Fu Elliot. Sadness. Dread. Uneasiness. Existential confusion. Pity. Also a strange feeling of déjà vu.

It is a documentary film by about a Halifax, Nova Scotia resident with big dreams. Huge, improbable dreams. He tells the documentary film crew he wants to be “Canada’s first action hero.” Elliot seems to unwaveringly believe that he will be Canada’s Jackie Chan with every fibre of his self-aggrandizing, narcissistic, easily-distracted being. From a two-year survey of Elliot Scott’s riotous and disconcerting life, the filmmakers extract a thought-provoking, uncomfortable and completely unique 81 minutes.

We catch up with Elliot during the production of his third film, “Blood Fight” an independent martial arts film about an underground fight club. We meet the cast of players  – average, complicated, fascinating fellow Nova Scotians – who revolve around Elliot. There’s his long-suffering girlfriend Linda Lum, his ambitious, star-chasing friends Blake Zwicker and Blair Bayers, and the other merry band of exotics who buoy Elliot up in an increasingly turbulent ocean of self-delusion.

You’ve probably encountered people like Elliot Scott in your travels. Equal parts swagger, non-stop self promotion and relentless certainty in their ability to make their dreams reality. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll recognize Elliot Scott in yourself. Perhaps that’s what makes this documentary so very, very twisty and uncomfortable to watch.

Anyone who has ever been in a relationship with the wrong person will recognize the dynamics between Linda and Elliot. Anyone who has ever lost someone will ache right along with Blake talking about his girlfriend dying as Blake held her hand in hospital. Anyone who has ever wanted desperately to MATTER whatever the cost will understand Elliot.

Early and often, I found myself hoping that the documentary filmmakers would cradle the people featured in this film like tiny baby birds in the palms of their hands. Use a very light touch.

In the interview process, there’s always a temptation to nudge the subjects this way or that way in the pursuit of the story. Despite all of the subjects’ bluster, sound and fury, however, everyone featured seemed very, very delicate and fragile to me. On the jagged precipice of total breakdown.

Nudge or no nudge, the conclusion was inevitable. The film’s twist still packs a punch regardless.

At one point in the film, one of the documentary filmmakers asks Elliot: “Isn’t reality a nuisance sometimes?

And Elliot sums it up best: “Reality is where all the pain is.”

He was right.

* * * *

Unrated

81 minutes

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