Russell Brand, love or hate, and Super 8
When we heard that the forthcoming documentary about Russell Brand had been partly shot on Super 8 it really got our attention.
First, the subject matter. Few British figures have so completely polarised opinion in recent years as much as Russell Brand. Whether you think of him as the instigator of SachsGate for which he was sacked as a BBC presenter or as the proponent of ‘Don’t Vote’ – a slogan which has earned him the fury of almost every political party going, he possesses an astonishing capacity to engage and infuriate in about equal measure.
Second, the medium. Super 8mm cine film is old school, gritty, grainy and yet with a colour density that has made it popular with such diverse directors as Wes Anderson and Ondi Timoner, who’s shooting the Brand documentary, it is definitely seen as a ‘real’ film medium increasing reserved for those who wish to emulate the golden age of documentary or to bring a certain realistic quality to their work that digital just doesn’t seem to deliver. There’s a paradox in that statement – digital is cleaner, crisper and more realistic and yet audiences and directors alike respond to Super 8 as if it’s more real.
It’s a bit like Russell Brand really – a contradiction. As Timoner says, “BRAND: A Second Coming” explores what prompts a man like Brand, a comedian, a hit with the young, a transgressive exposer of pomposity, a former addict to become a world changing revolutionary in the political sphere.
What’s the answer to that question? Well, the question may not be the right one to ask. Timoner’s working process is all about transformation and Brand’s is all about finding out what makes true heroes relevant. Brand looks at Ché Guevara, Jesus Christ and Malcolm X, amongst others. Brand, in other words, goes back to the basics of what has stood the test of time, in terms of role models. Timoner, similarly, has gone back to what works in the world of film, by using Super 8, one of the most enduring, popular and easy to use cinematic films ever created. It seems that in both cases, there’s something about going back to what has been proven to work, which is not exactly rocket science but is still pretty interesting in terms of Brand’s development towards political maturity.
Super 8 wins over Russell Brand
Timoner goes on to give all kinds of detail about the shooting process – the crew used a Canon C300, two C100s, a Digital Bolex, Go Pro at night and that Super 8 on a Nizo camera with a Zeiss lens. She goes on to say that she loved the effect of the Super 8 but that, more importantly, “Russell liked the look of it too and always gave me a little more when I was shooting it.”
So watch out for the new documentary and see if you can spot the sections shot on Super 8!