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Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie
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by Jay Seaver

"Pseudo-science non-fiction."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2008 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: "Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie" isn't really about cryptozoology. It may have started out that way, but given how little actual information one is likely to find about the mythical creature and how unlikely it is that a major discovery will be made while the cameras are rolling, it's almost inevitable that the focus will shift from the research to the researchers.

My instinct is to say that "researcher" is a generous term for people trying to photograph Bigfoot, and part of that is likely simple snobbery - Dallas Gilbert and Wayne Burton aren't professional scientists, or even college graduates (Burton dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade). They're working class, not that there is much work to be found in their Ohio community. That's somewhat unfair, of course, since they take their research seriously, although taking something seriously doesn't necessarily mean that somebody knows how to do it properly.

Director Jay Delaney seems to recognize this, although he doesn't harp on it. Instead, he makes it a story of these two guys and what drives them. It's not "us against the establishment", with more respected people are trying to discredit the pair and like-minded people, but "us against the world". Not a hostile world, but an indifferent one: The pair have lived relatively ordinary lives in small towns, and photographing Bigfoot gains them some amount of respect in the present (even if it is just within a small virtual community) and the potential to have accomplished something once their work is accepted. Most people will be able to get that, especially since Delaney doesn't present this as some sort of overriding neurosis, but rather something present in all of us that isn't wholly a bad thing; when we see others honor Gilbert, it's a positive feeling, not him being labeled the kind of the fools.

That's what makes parts intriguing: Though we meet Dallas and Wayne as friends, they sometimes react differently, in telling ways: Wayne speaks of receiving some more tangible reward for this effort, and seems to seek recognition more deliberately, while Dallas merely seems to enjoy it as a by-product of his own enthusiasm We see this particularly in the second half of the movie, when encounters with other Bigfoot researchers (including California-based Tom Biscardi) threaten to create a rift between the two.

Delaney does a nice job of documenting the pair and their world. The movie is short - just over an hour - but focused, never straying very far from its central pair. He and cinematographer Shane Allen Davis also do one very nifty thing with the film: As much as most documentaries endeavor to have the camera disappear, this is a story where photography plays an important role, and in one quiet but telling scene, the movie camera focuses in such a way as to create the illusion of a humanoid figure in the distance, holding for a moment before letting it go. Perhaps more than any bit of interview footage, or even the scenes of a convention of Bigfoot enthusiasts engaging in wild speculation to explain the gaps in their theories, this underscores how much the film's subjects are convincing themselves there's something there.

It's tough to blame them for that, we all look for something beyond our everyday existence, and "Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie" doesn't hold it against them. It also doesn't go out of its way to praise that sort of mindset, which makes it an intriguing look not at Bigfoot, but how phenomena like Bigfoot come to be and persist.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17155&reviewer=371
originally posted: 09/19/08 16:20:30
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2008 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2008 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.

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USA
  N/A (NR)
  DVD: 29-Sep-2009

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Jay Delaney

Written by
  (documentary)

Cast
  Dallas Gilbert
  Wayne Burton



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