FANTASIA FEST 2020: Clapboard Jungle

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Clapboard Jungle

My viewpoint on film is limited. I’ve only been covering film festivals for the past two years and the lenses I bring to my critique are from my scholarly background that was the farthest thing from film school. But as I’ve learned the language of writing about film, I haven’t gotten the chance to peek behind the curtain. At Fantasia Fest 2020, Clapboard Jungle, a documentary from Justin McConnell pulls the curtain down and showcases the struggle and the love that goes into bringing films to screen, more specifically as an indie filmmaker.

Clapboard Jungle is an emotional journey following five years in the life of Canadian independent filmmaker Justin McConnell. The goal of the documentary is simple: show how an indie filmmaker survives in the current industry. Or, attempts to. Through showcasing his own story which begins in his childhood and moves into adulthood pursuing his dreams as a filmmaker, we get to see all the love and passion that goes into filmmaking. But more importantly, we see the grit it takes to overcome the challenges of the craft.

While Clapboard Jungle can be seen just as a documentary into filmmaking, it’s more importantly a guided tour into McConnell’s own life. It also looks at the triumph and struggles that come with the journey of financing, producing, and distributing a film. Following the completion of his 2011 thriller The Collapsed, he strives and struggles to get bigger projects like Tripped, The Eternal, and Mark of Cane off the ground. Shot of over several years, audiences get to meet McConnell’s collaborators, potential angels, and many filmmakers and actors from the genre-film spectrum offering their thoughts on the craft and challenges of getting your vision on the screen.

Clapboard Jungle

There are equal amounts of depressing realizations of what is involved in filmmaking and uplifting moments so that Clapboard Jungle never feels too optimistic or too bleak. It just feels like a window into reality. This is pushed by the inclusion of interviews with filmmakers across the industry. McConnell uses interviews with Guillermo del Toro, Richard Stanley, Barbara Crampton, Paul Schrader, Tom Savini, George A. Romero, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Michael Biehn, Frank Henenlotter, and many more to not only support his points and highlight the struggles but to also share their success stories and in so doing, share why they work in filmmaking to begin with.

Clapboard Jungle also shines a light on the festival circuits, the importance of screening films there, and the role critics play. The documentary is wholistic, examing every step and doing so in a way that is accessible to those who may not have the greatest understanding of the intricacies of the industry. It’s hard to review and rate this film because of how personal it feels. From the first minutes to the last, Clapboard Jungle feels like a diary entry — a personal history that McConnell has been kind enough to share.

Clapboard Jungle is introspective and moving. The openness that Justin McConnell has in telling his story, and through it, the story of indie filmmaking, is not only commendable but makes for a must-see documentary.

Clapboard Jungle screened at Fantasia Fest 2020.


Clapboard Jungle
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

Clapboard Jungle is introspective and moving. The openness that Justin McConnell has in telling his story, and through it, the story of indie filmmaking, is not only commendable but makes for a must-see documentary.