Hot Docs 2014: Kung Fu Elliot (2013)
On the surface, Kung Fu Elliot is a documentary about an independent director/actor making his latest low-budget martial arts movie. At its core, however, the doc is an interesting look at the collision between dreams and reality. Elliot Scott sees himself as the Chuck Norris of Canada, karate-kicking his way through bad guys, when in reality he’s unemployed and his personal life is crumbling. Karate Kid would have been a great alternate title for this doc, as Elliot is a martial artist, but also a child struggling to grow up and face certain harsh truths. Initially, no one is more supportive of Elliot’s action-hero goals than his girlfriend Linda, who acts as his camera-woman and even stars in some of his films. The doc delves into their relationship, and quickly exposes the cracks. Linda is a realist, and she encourages Elliot to go back to school, but her aggressive attitude, and Elliot’s own eccentricities just push them further apart.
From a narrative standpoint, the first half of the doc is fairly straightforward, and at times even a little dull, but a major plot twist towards the end of the film definitely livens things up. Elliot’s behavior changes drastically following his return from a school trip to China, and while initially the hero of the story, he quickly becomes vilified by those closest to him. What’s unique about the filmmakers (Matthew Bauckman and Jaret Belliveau) in King Fu Elliot is that they break the wall between camera and subject, yelling at Elliot from off camera (sort of poking the bear), and ultimately changing the flow of the documentary. It’s as if the filmmakers, fully equipped with hidden knowledge about Elliot, antagonize him in order to make the documentary more interesting. While this, in a way, may seem cruel on the part of the filmmakers, it feels justified because of Elliot’s disgusting and overtly-sexual behaviour, and awful treatment of Linda. The doc is disturbing in some parts, but offers an interesting perspective of one man’s psyche, and his warped views on reality. I would recommend Kung Fu Elliot for anyone interested in a doc with a twist.
Watch the Kung Fu Elliot Trailer
Screening Times for Kung Fu Elliot
Scotiabank Theatre 3 Wed, Apr 30 6:30 PM
Scotiabank Theatre 4 Thu, May 1 3:30 PM
Scotiabank Theatre 7 Fri, May 2 9:30 PM
For more info and to purchase tickets, visit hotdocs.ca.