Music figures prominently once again at this year's Hot Docs festival. Kevin MacDonald ("The Last King of Scotland") has a biopic on Bob Marley, there's a look at Toronto-act The Fifth Column, and "Shut Up and Play the Hits" attempts to bottle the vibe at the final LCD Soundsystem concert.
It would be hard to believe that any of these films pack the literal punch of Jay Bulger's highly entertaining examination of the drummer from legendary psychedelic blues band Cream -- Ginger Baker -- in "Beware Of Mr. Baker." It's a 'literal punch' because of the narrative hook offered in the opening scene: Baker literally breaks the nose of the film's director, setting a fitting tone for the rest of the movie. (The two originally met when Bulger did an interview with Baker for a fictional article in Rolling Stone magazine.) Bulger's tale of one of rock's great curmudgeons, living with his young internet wife in the heart of South Africa with a set of drums in one room and a stable full of champion polo ponies outside, did eventually gain the attention of Rolling Stone. The story was published. The doc picks up where the article ends, giving you unprecedented access to the wild mind of a drumming genius.
Amazing Ginger Baker Drum Solo -- For Your Listening Pleasure
Baker has been able to get away with most of his outbursts, dalliances and bad behaviour in his rough-and-tumble life due to a gritty British demeanour and lots of raw talent. A chain-smoking alcoholic with a taste for just about every drug under the sun, his imbibing never seemed to get in the way of his limber and jazz-fuelled style of drumming. His rhythms, power and that crazy look in his eye has allowed Baker to stand tall, and some would argue, above the Bonhams and Moons of this world.
A fantastic platform for Clapton's guitar prowess, it's fascinating to learn that Cream was actually Baker's band. Extensive interviews with Clapton and vocalist/bassist Jack Bruce paint the picture of a very difficult but gifted musician who steered the group to super-stardom in the late 1960s. There is still bad blood over Bruce getting most of the royalties (due to the writing credits on the songs).
Baker is best-known for his time with Cream, but he enjoyed plenty of success before and after his tenure with the classic rock staple. His abrupt move to Nigeria in the 1970s birthed an unlikely relationship with the legendary African musician Fela Kuti. Baker also pushed his way into supergroup Blind Faith, which featured Clapton and Traffic lead singer, Steve Winwood. Director Bulger used the drumming reputation of Baker to get every rock drummer who matters into this film. Stuart Copeland, Neil Peart, Chad Smith, Lars Ulrich and Mickey Hart share little when it comes to what their bands do musically, but all bow to the Ginger Baker school of drumming.
He has gone through wives, bandmates, homes and millions of dollars. As you'll find out, he isn't done yet. You can't really criticize the filmmaking merits of "Beware Mr. Baker." Either you love Baker or you don't. There will be plenty on either side of that argument.
Fri, Apr 27, 6:15 PM Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Sat, Apr 28, 1:45 PM Isabel Bader Theatre
Sat, May 5, 1:00 PM TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Full schedule of Hot Docs screenings Hot Docs Day 1: "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry"