Washington native Jay Bulger’s documentary about legendary drummer Ginger Baker, known for his work with Cream and Blind Faith, took the top prize in its category at this year’s South by Southwest Festival in Austin.
“Beware of Mr. Baker,” a 90-minute examination of the acclaimed musician’s turbulent, drug-plagued life, won the grand jury prize for documentary, beating out the entry that seemed to have the early buzz: “Marley,” directed by Kevin MacDonald, whose work includes “State of Play” and “The Last King of Scotland.”
Not bad for first-time director Bulger, whose odyssey to make the film, involving two trips to South Africa, thousands of dollars of debt, brazen fibs and a broken nose, was chronicled by Kris Coronado in the March 4 issue of the Washington Post Magazine.
Coronado talked to Bulger Wednesday morning about the win.
The director was so sure he was out of contention, he said, that his fiancee had to convince him to attend the award ceremony. Even so, he took his time getting there. “I wasn’t worried about being late,” Bulger said. “They usually give these things to people who, like, make movies that are changing the world and stuff. Ours is just about a man, but an anti-hero, too. So, I wasn’t sure. I didn’t think anyone was going to be as well-receiving as they were.”
Because of his tardy arrival, Bulger was sitting in the back of the crowd when the winning documentary was announced. “Once they started describing it, I was like, ‘That sounds a lot like my movie. Whoever did that movie, we’re on the same page.’ ” It took him three minutes to make his way to the podium to accept the award, where he said he told the audience “how Ginger would have told them to take the award and shove it up their [expletive].”
A review of the film earlier this week, by John DeFore of Hollywood Reporter, called it “an affectionate but unfawning portrait” of Baker. “Though its theatrical viability isn’t certain,” the review continued, “the doc feels bigger than the small screen; percussionists and classic rock fans will be delighted wherever they encounter it.”
Seems like “Mr. Baker’s” theatrical viability might be better assured now. Bulger said the team has received several offers for distribution. And he’s hoping the film will make it into the SilverDocs festival, which will run in Silver Spring in June (accepted films will be announced in May).
This morning, he was still marveling about the win. “I know there other [awards] that are technically bigger, but this is the coolest festival in the world.”
Warning: some PG-13 language.