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Movie Review: Eddies: The Documentary

Eddies The Documentary

There exists, in every one of us, a tiny creative spark that once ignited can explode out of our heads, hearts and hands into an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. All of our passions, all of our dreams and all of our desires come bursting out with an intense ferocity to create a work of art that is the ultimate expression of who we are as human beings.

In Calgary, the fuel that ignites that spark in its residents is beer. Glorious, delicious, refreshing beer.

This is not to imply that Calgary is filled with drunks. But, in that fair city, there exits the Eddies, a special award given out annually by the Big Rock Brewery to amateur and professional filmmakers who are invited to submit short films promoting the brewery’s ales, lagers, and stouts.

While unknown just about everywhere else, in Calgary and the surrounding region the Eddies are an absolute phenomenon. Dozens, if not hundreds, of people submit films each year and thousands of people crowd into an enormous theater for an Oscar-esque ceremony to watch the finalists’ films and to see who wins the top awards, which can come with a prize of $20,000. Then, after the ceremony, everyone heads to a massive party where a good time is had by all and mucho beer is consumed.

Michael Peterson is a Calgary filmmaker who documents the madness surrounding the 2008 Eddies in the aptly titled and hugely entertaining Eddies: The Documentary. Peterson found a couple of happy volunteers who allowed him to film them make their video masterpieces. At the outset, Peterson had no idea whether any of his subjects would even become finalists. But, with stars in their eyes and passion in their hearts, they craft their concoctions dreaming of becoming one of the chosen people.

While the Eddies are open to anybody, most of Peterson’s subjects are creative professionals of one stripe or another. The one who is not is the film’s first subject, Scott Penny, who is a champion horseshoe thrower. Scott also offers the sage advice that an Eddies submission must be a comedy and that any sincere, dramatic effort will just fall flat on its face. And, true to form, all of the subjects included in the documentary do indeed make comedic short videos.

Even though the Eddies are really just an excuse to have a huge party and the participating filmmakers are generally making just joke videos, every participant takes their efforts very seriously. What’s extremely illuminating about Eddies: The Documentary is that it exposes filmmaking for what it truly is: An act of overcoming a set of problems.

Some problems are technical, such as the graphic artist who has to teach himself Flash in order to make an animated cartoon. Other problems are creative, such as the playwright who — although he has the perfect technical set-up — completely overthinks his idea of a “joke” into something incomprehensible. Still more problems are collaborative, such as the group of six filmmakers who team up to shoot five short films in three days, yet one day is wasted when three of the guys simply fail to show up.

And, most appropriately, some problems are sheer drunkenness. In the film’s funniest sequence, a corporate videomaker shoots take after take after take after take of an actor guzzling beer. Yes, real beer. Nobody thought to dump the beer out and fill the bottles with water. By the end of shooting the poor actor is absolutely hammered.

Peterson captures all this with a bemused seriousness, treating his subjects with the utmost respect — the “subjects” being both the filmmakers and the whole Eddies phenomenon. Keeping that attitude at the forefront through the entire film makes Eddies: The Documentary a wonderful celebration of the creative spirit. And, by the end of the film, it makes the viewer think two things:

1. Man, I really want to make a movie.

2. Damn, I really want a beer!

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