Hot Docs 2015: A Different Drummer: Celebrating Eccentrics Review

Special Presentations

A Different Drummer is a documentary with a subject too broad to contain in a single movie. The subject is certainly admirable, it’s just that 85 minutes barely allows Oscar-winning director John Zaritsky to scratch the surface. The film is about eccentrics and Zaritsky serves up a whole bunch of them. There’s a psychic in Vancouver who walks the streets with multiple pet ducks while giving out cash hidden in cookies. There’s a man who has given up money and lives in a cave. There’s a British oddball who invents the strangest things like a portable BBQ, a bra-warmer, and three-wheeled fire engine. There’s a man who gives guided eccentric tours of San Francisco dressed as a monk. There are others as well. Zaritsky doesn’t judge or mock the strange people he finds, but revels in their oddness and presents it as a virtue instead. 

That’s a perfectly reasonable approach and even a good idea for a film. The trouble is simply the lack of a clear focus. There’s nothing really connecting these various people, so the movie rattles along with an awkward episodic structure. Despite numerous nauseating inspirational quotes about the power of eccentricity that appear on screen, there’s not much of a thesis or conclusion that Zaritsky arrives at either. He merely plucks out a handful of random eccentrics, lets them tell their heartbreaking or hilarious stories, and then rolls the credits. The resulting movie certainly offers plenty of amusing moments, but it never congeals into a satisfying whole.

A Different Drummer almost feels incomplete, as if all the raw footage for an interesting documentary has been assembled and now it needs to be shaped into a movie. It’s still worth a peak for the curious, but ultimately feels like a missed opportunity. 

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Screens:

Sunday, April 26, 8:45pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 4
Tuesday, April 28, 2:15pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

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