Mockumentaries are that genre of film which satires the documentary style. Classics in this filmic tradition include This is Spinal Tap and Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The Austin Revolution Film Festival (#ARFF2017), now in its sixth year, included two excellent feature films in this style: Mock and Roll and Frazier Park Recut.
Mock and Roll
Although a fan of “Weird Al” Yankovic for decades, I never knew that entire bands also made a practice of writing new words to other bands’ music. These are called parody bands and Mock and Roll chronicles the adventures of such a band, named Liberty Mean.
Unlike the band in its indirect inspiration, This is Spinal Tap, Liberty Mean is not a big success. The word clueless comes to mind. As they parody the band Black Owls, who along with several other musicians, perform cameos in the film, they set out on a dream. They need to raise money to make it from Ohio to the stage of SXSW. They run into problems that not only torpedo their music careers, but nearly cost them their lives.
The cast comes across as funny, charming, and, given their misadventures, sad. The most clueless of the clueless is the drummer, played by Andrew Yackel. Aditi Molly Bhanja, the only real musician in the cast, is the lead singer. She has a great voice and style. Pakob Jarernpone plays guitar, and the leader of the band is Chris Wolfe.
I enjoyed Wolfe’s performance and I thought he was channeling Sean Penn from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I asked him about it at a mixer later, and he was not even familiar with the film. Watch out Sean, Chris could be the next you.
During the audience Q&A after the film, writer/producer Mark Stewart was asked how he got the well-known musicians and bands to appear in the film. “They were just passing through Ohio,” he said, “so, I asked them.”
Frazier Park Recut
Clueless and hapless could also be applied to the lead characters in Frazier Park Recut. Tyler Schnabel and Sam Hanover play themselves, two young filmmakers who decide to make a low budget film: one more variation on the classic “cabin in the woods” theme. To self-promote, they film their preparations and the behind-the-scenes activities of the production process.
To get their film going, they rent a cabin in Frazier Park, a mountain community just north of Los Angeles. They also need a third actor to play the cabin’s creepy groundskeeper. They audition several actors, settling on Tom, played by David Lee Hess. Unfortunately for them, Tom is much creepier than they imagine.
Unknown to the two young men, Tom begins filming his own version of the film within a film. Ultimately the phrase “recut” will take on a sinister meaning.
Although all this sounds pretty dark, some of the biggest laughs I heard during the festival occurred while watching this film. “Know your audience” is advice often given to screenwriters. Schnabel and Hess, who co-wrote and co-directed the film, definitely know the film festival audience. The jokes were oriented toward people who have worked on – or suffered through – making a movie. But don’t worry, the humor gives way to dark drama that anyone can understand.
You’ll also learn a new use for horseshoes.
The trailer for the film is linked below.