Elliot: Slamdance Review

This intermittently amusing doc scrutinizes a martial arts moviemaker who is a legend in his own mind.

The Canadian documentary follows the exploits of aspiring filmmaker Elliot Scott, who imagines himself as the heir to Jackie Chan or Chuck Norris.

A number of films -- both fiction and nonfiction -- have peered at minimally talented individuals with grandiose dreams; Ed Wood might be the wittiest example. Elliot, a Canadian documentary premiering at Slamdance, follows the exploits of aspiring filmmaker Elliot Scott, who imagines himself as the heir to Jackie Chan or Chuck Norris. Scott claims to be a karate champion, though that boast seems a bit dubious as the film goes on. It is true that he has made some micro-budgeted martial arts films, and the doc follows his efforts to complete his magnum opus, Blood Fight, over the course of several months. While such cheerfully deluded characters can indeed make for entertaining movies, this picture needs heavy editing if it is ever to resurface beyond the festival circuit.

Directors Matthew Bauckman and Jaret Belliveau make good use of the locations around Halifax, Nova Scotia, and they won the cooperation of Scott, his girlfriend and reluctant filmmaking partner Linda Lum, as well as a few other friends and collaborators. These colleagues are not all unabashed cheerleaders. Lum makes it clear that she is tired of being the only breadwinner in the household. Although she has tolerated and even encouraged Elliot's filmmaking ambitions, she seems to be increasingly discouraged with his lack of progress. The co-stars of Blood Fight also appear in the documentary, though their stories are less interesting, and the film starts to sag. One wonders if Elliot might have been more effective as a short film than as a feature; Scott's inflated ambitions are established early on and then restated repeatedly. Since the directors are also the editors (and cinematographers), they may have needed another collaborator to hone the material more ruthlessly.

Scott nevertheless emerges as an engagingly nerdy dreamer, and Lum makes a useful foil. Toward the end, the film turns around cleverly and reveals that some of the things that Scott has told us may not be true. He talks about a childhood accident that put him in a coma as well as a former wife who died tragically. Later the filmmakers call both stories into question. Blood Fight remains unfinished in the end, and Scott himself apparently runs off to China, where his love of martial arts may finally come to a happier conclusion. Although Elliot is at least 20 minutes too long, it does have enough humorous moments to be added to the catalog of films about likable, indefatigable losers.

Venue: Slamdance Film Festival

Directors-directors of photography-editors: Matthew Bauckman, Jaret Belliveau

Producer: David Eberts

Music: Blair Bayers

No rating, 96 minutes