Resurrecting the Street Walker

Resurrecting the Street Walker

'Mockumentary' style filmmaking is a delicate art. At its worst, it can seem very contrived indeed but, when it is done well it is a formidable tool - not only can audiences suspend their disbelief, but they can enjoy the fruits of a formidably complex labour. Ozgur 'Oz'Uyanik's masterly 2009 film, Resurrecting the Street Walker, definitely falls into the latter category.

The film frames itself as a documentary examining the story of an ambitious young filmmaker, James, and his attempts to establish himself in the market by completing an abandoned 'video nasty' called The Street Walker. The documentary is evidently the end-point in James's story so we hear, via friends and family, of his struggles to break into the industry, his miserable job as a runner for a film company and, in the course of completing a tawdry filing task, his discovery of the incomplete film reel. During these events James himself kept a video diary so footage from this, from a friend's proposed documentary on getting into the industry, and sinister black and white footage from The Street Walker, forms the remainder of the film.

As an audience, we are being asked to make sense of three different periods of time: the 1980s via the Street Walker footage; a period of several months in James's life as he struggles to get the film finished; and a point beyond all of that when he becomes the focus for his own documentary. This is an ambitious and multi-layered film which could easily have fragmented into chaos but, thanks to the skilful handling of Uyanik and his team, this never happens. The film runs seamlessly with just enough focus on each of its elements to ensure that the plot, and the pace, is perfect. The acting performances - with specific mention of James Powell as the James of the film - are excellent and, as a tribute to this, I checked twice whether I wasn't in fact watching a real documentary.

Although horror is the premise for this film - and indeed, the horror footage from the incomplete video nasty is grainy and unpleasant stuff - it is actually a novel and stylish account of mental disintegration. As we watch James's friends and family grow increasingly concerned about where his ambition is taking him, so we believe in and feel for his state of mind. Throughout, James is a likeable character: he is as funny and self-deprecating as he is intense and bloody-minded. When he rails against the horrors of sacrificing his creative aspirations in order to placate society with a 9-5 lifestyle, we feel for him. When he is being treated as a stooge by everyone at the film production company, we feel for him. Indeed, at any point during the film James remains a sympathetic character regardless of where determination to complete his project takes him.

Director and Producer Ozgur Uyanik and Ian Prior, presenting this film at the Abertoir 2009 Film Festival, said that they drew heavily on their own experiences as runners and aspiring filmmakers in order to make their film, and this insider knowledge really adds to the feeling of veracity. They also edited it as they would have edited a genuine documentary, following all the rules of succinct and professional documentary-making. Add to this a sharp script and you have one of the most original and compelling films of the year.

Review by Keri O'Shea

Directed by Ozgur Uyanik