This is an amazing documentary by UT's own Ben Steinbauer. Apparently this documentary has been three or four years in the making and it shows. Having known about the project (though very little), I am completely blown away at the artistry, emotion, and talent that have been put into this film. I believe that this documentary will have a long life as a piece on the American pop culture of viral videos (as it should)!
I have a little criticism, however, about the structure and exposition of the film. It had become apparent to Ben that the documentary would need to include himself through his perspective. Unfortunately, I don't believe he set this up in the best possible way. Just as it was an after thought to have Ben as a character, it appeared as though it was an after thought within the film. The only clue as to his inclusion was him doing the voice overs and brief narrative sequences. Ben never introduced himself, and never addressed the camera in a real way (only through fake set-ups). Even when he was interacting with Jack Rebney, it seemed as if he was putting on an act - like he truly wasn't relating to Jack as Ben Steinbauer but as filmmaker Ben Steinbauer. Although the documentary isn't ultimately about Ben's personal quest to find the man behind the infamous viral video personality, it was a significant aspect and I believe a greater effort could have been made to expose the character Ben Steinbauer and his personal perspective in the introduction. Who is Ben Steinbauer?! (Somewhat irrelevant, but the way documentary included him it seems like a pertient question).
Some techniques that Ben uses that I've noticed are his tendency to shoot with real film - most of the time for b-roll footage. At one point they wanted encapsulate the beauty and serenity of northern California. Using film was an excellent idea in capturing the nuisances of the light and color of that region. Within these b-roll shots, he would shoot "portraits" of characters like Jack. For example, it would just be Jack standing there looking into the Sun. This device is useful in that it allows time for reflections and transitions. It was also justified by the fact that up to that point we had not seen Jack at all but from the worn out and degenerated VHS video. This was the time to look at the man - the Winnebago Man.
Some people may dis- me on this one, but I feel the introductory sequence of a film is an extremely important aspect that initially develops the mood and expectations for the film. Needless to say, I was blown away by the documentary's opening title sequence. Very beautifully and graphically done. Call me out on being a formalist but from that point, because of the artistry put into that sequence, I knew I was going to see an excellent documentary. Production value.
The documentary was great, and if you weren't able to see it at this SxSW film festival, I feel sorry for you. Those who went to the screening in which Jack made an appearance, well, I'm jealous.