Nearly bankrupt and fighting back a nervous breakdown, documentary filmmaker Peter Whitehead wandered the streets of Edinburgh on a summer evening in 1969 shortly before the premiere of his latest film, The Fall. A flock of birds surprised him and caused him to pause in a square. There, he saw an elderly man pull food out of his pocket and start feeding the birds, calling them individually by name. Whitehead, who over the previous four years had chronicled an era of excess, energy, anarchy, and angst with unparalleled access and acumen, left filmmaking and bought his first falcon.
While Whitehead did not entirely abandon filmmaking in the 1970s, making a Led Zepplin concert-pic in 1970, Daddy in 1972, and Fire in the Water in 1977, the passion of his past three and a half decades has largely been devoted to majestic birds-of-prey. The film that served as the catalyst for his dramatic life overhall, The Fall, chronicled the descent of the student protest movement from a legitimate political force to what Whitehead described as “calculated political anarchy.” The film that resulted was a genre-bending experiment mixing a fictional political assassination with real-life footage of the protest movement.
Nearly forty years after beginning filming of The Fall, Whitehead told Sight and Sound, “I’ve never been on holiday, never wasted a single day. I would consider it a waste if I’m not pursuing my myth in some form or another.” Don't miss the myth of Peter Whitehead this Saturday at Studio Cinema, where The Fall begins at 7:00 PM.
Also on Saturday…
Two documentaries on the difficulties and disenfranchisement that occurs when people exert their right to vote are playing together at QFT on Saturday. No Umbrella: Election Day in the City follows the experiences of voters in one of Ohio’s poorest voting precincts during the 2004 presidential elections. Enemies of Happiness tells the story of a 27-year-old woman running in Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections in September 2005. Celebrate Northern Ireland's upcoming power sharing scenario with a Saturday afternoon of election woes starting at 2:00 PM at QFT.
As if our lives weren't scary enough, on Saturday afternoon, you can witness a dystopian future in which only Jett Loe and Martin Sheen’s brother can save the day. The Patrol is just one of many short jewels on display at the Jameson Short Film Competition, starting at high noon at the Black Box.
(Image above: still from the film Enemies of Happiness)