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Movie Review: Unknown White Male

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Sometime between 8 p.m. on July 1st and 7 a.m. on July 3rd, 2003, Doug Bruce lost himself. That morning, riding alone on a New York City subway headed to Coney Island, he could not remember his name, where he worked, who his friends were, or how much money he had in his bank account. He was a man who lost his memory.

This is the amazing true documentary of a man who, for some unknown medical reason, suddenly found himself completely unaware of anything before that fateful ride to Coney Island. This is Unknown White Male, a film by Rupert Murray, produced by Beadie Finzi, and distributed by Wellspring. If you didn’t know, Wellspring has a great history of supporting the most thought provoking, inspired films of our time, and they should be applauded for their work.

I love documentaries, and out the hundreds that I have had the pleasure of watching, this one blew me out of the water. Days later I am still pondering the events of Doug’s life and the enormity of the situation he was dropped into. This documentary is a must see; I can’t state it any simpler. I have never left a film with so many questions about life and the pursuit of happiness than when I finished watching this one.

From the opening, we are thrown into a very confusing situation. The film maker, Rupert Murray, a friend of Doug’s, catches up with him just days after the event. We see a confused and suspicious man who has no trust of anyone or anything. I have to say that Rupert does an unbelievable job at creating an environment where we, the viewers, feel the confusion that Doug is dealing with. We watch as Doug searches for any clues as to his past, all the while trying to come to grips with the tragic event that has robbed him of so much.

The film smartly includes medical professionals who discuss memory, and provide their expert analysis about what could have happened. But with the mystery that is the human brain, all anyone can do is make educated guesses. This leaves Doug with nothing to go forward with. Ultimately, he is alone, and unaided through his recovery. The odd thing is, though, is that Doug’s memory loss is not the most interesting part of this story. The real story of Unknown White Male comes in the unforeseen questions such an event creates.

If you, like Doug, were to lose all of your memories, who would you be? Would you have the same personality, or would a new one be created? Would you go back to the job you had, or would your real purpose emerge? Would you even like the people who were your best friends before all of this happened? Most of all, would you even want to remember your past, or would you want to start fresh? They’re all questions Doug faces as he tries to separate what was from what is and we are there for every moment.

There are numerous parts in Unknown White Male that will have you at a loss for words. I had to pause the DVD player several times because I was overwhelmed by what I was seeing. There were funny moments, like when Doug sees the beach for the first time and as he is headed for the ocean, wonders if he ever knew how to swim. There are poignant moments as we watch Doug meet his father and sister. And there are sad moments when Doug’s friends wonder if they will even carry on their relationships with him after losing fifteen years of memories. It is real, it is tragic, and it is moving.

I say to all of you reading this, do yourself a favor and go see this documentary. And if you’ve never seen a documentary, this would be a great place to start. If you would like to get a glimpse into the film, and watch a few snippets, please check out their
Web site.

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About T Stoddart

  • El Bicho

    “The film maker, Rupert Murray, a friend of Doug’s, catches up with him just days after the event.”

    This is incorrect. Murray states in the film that it was months before he even wrote to Bruce in deferrence to Bruce’s request. The video shot shortly after the incident was by Doug and others.

  • T

    Oh, my bad, but I guess you’ve corrected that in the very similar article you wrote a day later. Nice.

  • El Bicho

    Considering your issues with James Frey, you seemed to be someone who was concerned about getting the facts straight. Obviously, that’s not the case considering the way you have lashed out with your false assumptions.

  • T

    That’s article/James Frey, but that’s what I expect from someone so unoriginal. Plus, I doubt my statement of truth can hardly be deemed “lashing out.”

    I’m all for the truth, and yep, I made a mistake in the above article. I expect to be called to the mat for it. What I don’t expect is when someone basically posts an article with the same information as mine. Opinon is one thing, but El Bicho, you know the way BC works. I was granted the review, not you, if you had any respect for this process you would have waited till the cinematic release of the film until your review. But you didn’t, you jumped on the back of my article with little added. This is a sign of your lack of professionalism.

    No one is getting paid here. We all take time out of our days to write here, and what we want in return is some life for our articles. When you post on top of another post, you reduce the life of the original. So, in my position, I ask why would another BC’er do this. To this end I am puzzled.

    Take what you will from my statement, it is of little consequence to me personally, but if we are to make BC the best it can be-redundant articles are not helping. There is a world of stories and issues out there, go find them. We will all be better for it.

  • El Bicho


    The film came out on 2/24, which is the day I submitted my review to the BC queue, so I’m not clear what you are talking about regarding the process. Feel free to check their web site if you have any doubt.

    Other than our summary of events and questions the film raises, we viewed the film differently. It was a profound experience for you, and I’m sure it will be for others as well. I thought the film petered out at the end and the direction was poor. Why shouldn’t the readers have the option of seeing different opinions?

    While you may have been granted the review through BC, I am granted reviews through other web sites I write for and was given the chance to attend a screening a few weeks back. With the thousands of review items in the database, I don’t keep track
    of what others are responsible for.

    As far as I know BC doesn’t have any official policy about multiple posts regarding the same subject or item. If I’m wrong, would you or an editor please let me know what the rules are because this is the first time I’ve heard about it.

    I just did a rollyo search and your article was listed first, so your complaints about life reduction are premature and while I know you don’t need my permission, please feel free to go into the comments of my article and place a link, so the readers can see your article.

  • T

    It’s not a rule, it’s common courtesy. If you are too busy to read BC because of your other web obligations then it creates situations like these. Plus, now I can only infer from what you’ve just said, and I may be wrong, but posting the same article on several websites weakens BC. I am sure the editors here want fresh material.

    I disagree with your opinion being all that different. Yes, you mention that there is a direction problem and the film petered but ninety percent of your article is just reiteration of mine. And that is useless for our readers. Why should they have to endure two similar posts?

    Now I understand that you cannot be searching the database each time you post, but if you are unsure if an article has been covered, then you might want to use our Yahoo group to ask. You are obviously aware of the James Frey situation and in that discussion, we writers asked each other if it was okay to tread in their waters. This is the only acceptable means of working together and to the benefit of BC. We are adults and we don’t need rules posted on the blackboard to figure this out.

    A final note: I do appreciate you discussing this with me in the manner you have. Thanks

  • Joanie

    T, El Bicho and you, as well as other reviewers can all share their thoughts on the same film on BC and other sites. We see this happen all the time. The interpretations that each writer brings to the table is what makes BC so strong. If you both ended up with similar questions after viewing the film, the director obviously did a good job. You can have the same questions about it and still feel differently about the quality of the production.

    Multiple reviews of the same item aren’t in competition with each other; think of them as the equivalent of The Artistocrats – 100 takes on the same material from different perspectives. There’s endless potential!

    If you have any other questions about multiple reviews, please feel free to email the TV or Film editors for clarification.

  • T

    Sorry, but there is no agreement on my part. Reviews are reviews, but if there is nothing fresh to say than maybe its better to say nothing. As I said, redundancy is of no benefit.

    There is no real difference of perception, at least none great enough to need another post.

    I would never want anyone to not express themselves but to make copies with little in the way of alteration is not a positive expression of opinion. And that is my repititious opinion. The horse is dead.

    I feel that in the future, I will be more apprehensive to spend my time writing articles that are not stand alone pieces. It’s kind of a waste for me.

  • Eric Berlin

    T, I think you should have more confidence in your own thoughts and material. If others have a similar take on the same movie, so be it. Short of plagiarism, we don’t have a policy against multiple people reviewing the same film. In fact, we encourage it.

  • T

    Eric please, this does not come down to confidence. In the years that I have worked freelance I have never come across a publication, or online magazine that prides itself on repetition. Different views are always good but what is the use of repeating the same article if not but to hear your own voice?

    And on that, why do we assign reviews? If everyone can review material then why not let everyone have access to all materials? This would fall into your policy wouldn’t it?

    My original point was that there are a million stories out there, do we really need to walk the same path over and over? I don’t see our competitors doing it.

    Now, I think this horse is dead. I will never agree with this support for repetition no matter your reasoning.

  • JaJa

    I agree with you T, it really takes away from the site when you see the same thing repeated over and over.

    IMHO it would definitely detract from the value of the site.

    I do agree with having a difference of opinion on a review but really that should just be posted to the original review, really no need to make your difference of opinion another review..

  • Blah

    Why do you feel the need to feel more special than someone else? The two articles don’t sound the same. The writing style of both of you is different. One review I found boring and figured the movie was one to miss, the other was more compelling and now I want to actually see it. So something had to have been different between the two. Had that other dude copied and pasted your article I could understand getting some panties in a wad about it, but that isn’t what he did. I like reading more than one review on the same things. Even if they reach the same conclusion or discuss the same details. What’s the big deal?

  • T

    Blah-get it straight, I don’t need to feel anything. It’s about professionalism. You don’t see magazines duplicating their articles do ya? It’s not about no accepting opinions either- this is a review-if someone has something very similar to say then post a comment-spare everyone the redundancy-if he had an opposing view-I would have been all for it. But really what was added? As for difference, I don;t see much.

    You can read all the reviews you want, but not in the manner of story after story-how about one story or two opposing stories and a bunch of comments that stimulate conversation..

    Look I’m done talkin about this-This really should have been an internal matter but I felt called out so here we are….I will not be discussing this further.