Last month, this writer had the opportunity to check out a pair of films that screened as part of the 2020 Slamdance Film Festival in Park City. Here are my thoughts on the Bigfoot-centric documentary Big Fur as well as the experimental film Majnuni from directors Kouros Alaghband and Drew Hoffman.
Big Fur: In Big Fur, we’re introduced to Ken Walker, who is a taxidermist living in Canada with an extreme passion for the off-beat art form, which makes him a bit of an odd duck. But the thing is, Ken is one of the best in the game, and he has numerous awards and a ton of prestigious projects to prove just how skilled he is with rebuilding all types of wildlife. Beyond his proclivity for crafting taxidermy projects, Ken is also an avid believer in the legend of Bigfoot, to the point where he’s even hoarding baggies of frozen Bigfoot poop in his freezer. Ken’s faith in the existence of the mythical Sasquatch propels Ken on a path to recreate the creature for an upcoming show, an unconventional entry considering his mastery of real-life animals.
And in a nutshell, that’s what Big Fur is all about: the pursuit of what makes you happy, regardless the cost. Documentarian Dan Wayne paints a mostly compelling portrait here of an artist who lives by his own convictions, regardless of the fallout, and I appreciated the fact that Big Fur isn’t interested in mocking its subject when it comes to his more outlandish convictions, and treats Ken with a sense of dignity whenever the focus of the doc switches back to the subject of Bigfoot and the plausibility of the elusive creature’s existence. Also, I must commend Ken on the work he does in recreating the fuzzy behemoth, using the images from the notorious Patterson-Gimlin footage as his template, as the results are spectacular to behold.
That being said, there’s a bit of distance from its subject that keeps Big Fur from achieving greatness as a character study documentary. We get to know Ken Walker throughout, we get a glimpse into his life and family, but we never get a deeper sense of just what exactly is driving him, especially when it comes to taxidermy or the choices he makes during the journey of Big Fur. To me, I get a sense that his chosen profession is Ken’s way of being able to manipulate and control his subjects, but that’s pure speculation simply because Big Fur never really asks the question of its star, and I think had it dug a bit deeper, the results would be a bit more satisfying.
There is something to be said for artists who pursue their interests at any cost, which definitely applies to Ken Walker, but his own quest for personal satisfaction comes with a hefty price tag attached, and that’s another aspect that Big Fur just glosses over as well. As a whole, though, I commend Dan Wayne’s efforts here by giving us a much different look at one man’s obsession with Bigfoot through the guise of taxidermy and naturalism. I just wish it hadn’t shied away from giving us a more complete exploration of just what it is that makes Ken Walker tick.
Movie Score: 3/5
Majnuni: While I’m still reconciling just what exactly the film is about, Majnuni from filmmakers Drew Hoffman and Kouros Alaghband is a provocative experimental film about the nature of obsession which follows a man named Adnan (Adnan Omerovic) through his exploits as he crosses paths with a variety of characters, culminating in a journey that asks more questions than it ever answers. There’s a compelling naturalistic style on display throughout Majnuni, where the camera feels like a silent observer as Adnan meanders through the night, but at the same time, when all is said and done, I’m not exactly sure of the narrative purpose of Majnuni, which is a bit unfortunate.
The film starts off with Adnan helping a passed-out drunk man (Barry Del Sherman) into his apartment so that his wife Nela (Nela Bazdar) can deal with his inebriation. There’s a back-and-forth between Adnan and Nela involving money that causes the woman to throw Adnan out, but I’m not exactly sure just why. She sets out to leave her husband with their son in tow, while Adnan watches, and there’s also a secondary story involving a woman named Dina (Dina Hebib), who finds herself involved with both of the male characters at various points in the story. It all culminates with a chance meeting between the initial man that Adnan helped home meeting the man who took care of him, and what it all really means, I don’t have a firm answer for you there.
That being said, there’s something wholly evocative about the way that Majnuni is shot by the film’s cinematographer Lamia Sabic, who captures the mysteries of the night with their lens in such a captivating way. Directors Hoffman and Alaghband utilize a variety of mediums in Majnuni as well, where at certain points, Adnan turns on his television and we’re immediately transported back to take a peek at what’s happening with the other characters in the film. Omerovic makes for an extremely compelling vessel throughout Majnuni, though, and I think it’s his intoxicating performance that made the film worth the watch, because otherwise, I’m not sure this one would have really done much for me overall.
Movie Score: 3/5