“No gorillas were harmed in the making of this documentary. All scenes depicting violence to gorillas were simulated.” –from the credits for Muleskinner Blues
Mule Skinner Blues is a 2001 documentary that chronicles the making of Turnabout is Fair Play, a horror movie made by retired Florida shrimper Beanie Andrew with the help of his fellow trailer park inhabitants who lived (and perhaps still do) somewhere outside Jacksonville. It is, by a substantial margin, my favorite film about art. Make no mistake. Beanie Andrew makes Ed Wood look like Ingmar Bergman in comparison, and although I’ve never seen Turnabout is Fair Play, I think it’s safe to assume it’s probably not admirable. It’s achievement, however, the fact that it exists because this particular group of people had the moxy to create it, is admirable. What more pure expression of the will to power through art, of the artistic impulse as an antidote to the absurdity of existence could there be? As Joshua Tanzer describes it in his review of the film, “they have the creative drive within and they make art that is meaningful for themselves and their audience.” In this sense, no artist has ever achieved more.
But what if Beanie and his cohorts actually had real talent? What would that movie look like? Well, it would look like Ink, a 2009 science-fiction fantasy film directed by Jamin and Kiowa Winans, who were so determined to make their film that they wrote, produced, directed, edited, scored, and marketed it themselves on a budget, I would guess, of about $10. With a budget like that, cracks are bound to show through of course. Ink has the look of a Star Trek fan production rather than a Hollywood production. Nevertheless, the story is engaging, insightful, and clever. The acting is not terrible (especialy from Quinn Hunchar and Christopher Kelly), and the special effects are surprisingly effective. Those who keep their expectations in check a bit will be rewarded with a fun-to-watch, well-paced film that evokes Pi, 1984, and The Matrix. Unlike Turnabout is Fair Play, this film deserves to be (and thanks to the internet has been) seen by more than the friends and family of its creators.