Jay Bulger’s biggest challenge making “Beware of Mr. Baker,” his documentary about legendary drummer Ginger Baker? Ginger Baker himself. “Ginger Baker was so much bigger than an article and my words on paper,” said Bulger. “The only way to give his story justice was to see and hear him play the drums.” Even if giving Baker’s story justice meant a broken nose in return.
What It’s About: Ginger Baker is the original rock ‘n roll madman junkie drummer superstar who everyone thought was dead but somehow survived his 50+ years of drug abuse, disastrous experiments, and 4 marriages on 3 continents.
Says director Jay Bulger: “Ginger Baker is one of the most prolific and misunderstood artists of the last century. I’m just lucky to have found him and be presenting what I believe to be one of the greatest lives and musical adventures ever told.
“The film is about a profoundly complex and honest man who has lived by his own rules and never compromised for one moment – often to his own detriment. If he had been born a hundred years earlier I’m convinced that he would have fought at the Alamo. It was that same attitude that pushed him to start Cream with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce, and then journey to the farthest reaches of the world in search of rhythmic perfection. In fact, Ginger drove across the Sahara Desert in 1972 – in the first Range Rover ever produced – en-route to Lagos, Nigeria where Fela Kuti had just started a new genre of music in Afro-Beat. As Johnny Rotten says in the film: ‘I know what my life’s experiences are and I like to exemplify them in music. Mr. Baker does the same. If that makes him an unpleasant person socially, well that’s exactly what is required for the music from him to be so superb, and I cannot question anyone with end results that perfect.’ I just hope that after watching, people will feel the same way as Johnny.
“On our last day of filming, I asked Ginger to take off his dark sunglasses for a last round of questions about his life regrets. It was a deeply emotional conversation, and later that day, as I was sitting in my car saying goodbye, Ginger broke my nose with a cane. If this was the result of getting beneath the surface and providing the audience with the information necessary to understand him as more than a drummer, but also as the young boy who broke away from his mother, running after the train that would take his father off to his death in WWII- then so be it. I’ve interviewed over 100 of his friends, family and musical collaborators and disciples, in hopes of providing you with an objective account of a man whom I care for dearly.”
Indiewire invited SXSW Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival.
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