I've seen plenty of documentaries and although we screened the 45 minute version of the 100 minute film, I feel qualified to give a few thoughts about Root Hog or Die. "John P" (as he's affectionately referred to by Souther Salazar) prefaced the film by explaining the "punk rock" nature of the film. The camera was bought used, Stafford attended film school for just a few months, and the sound might be criticized by John P's own cousin who works professionally in that field.
The film was showing off of a computer hooked up to a projector with the sound coming out of a decent speaker. It's the best we can do and frankly, I thought it looked and sounded much above standard in a space like ours for the 20 attendees.
The 45 minute version captures John P's early years of being in bands and growing up in the 80s and 90s. The longer version evidently has plenty of funny moments in his earlier years, yet the version we watched, had plenty of touching moments that examines John P's mental health issues that hampers his creativity and overall life. Interviews with family and friends, two ex-wives, and talks to the camera while on the road tells his story. It's intimate, yet artistic.
Comic readings of John P's work capture the certain moments that are depicted in the film. It's as if you're getting the story, then again in John P's drawings and thought provoking story telling style. They undoubtedly appear at the right moments to strengthen the overall narrative while changing the pace. Stafford also weaves music in and out at the exact right times and balances the "talking heads" of his documentary with footage that might be unintentionally "punk rock," making the scenes intimate and honest.
Although it's probably arguable that documentarians aren't supposed to be in the film, Stafford is inserted as a quiet listener in plenty of interviews or talks while they spent a month on the road - he even gets in the last word that was poignant and perfect.
John Porcellino answered questions and signed his new book, The Hospital Suite published by our friends and Drawn and Quarterly, and for a thursday, this was a successful and moving event. The Hospital Suite captures many years of the ailments that derailed his life. Above in the photo is his uncle who he doesn't visit with often. It was great to see John Porcellino with family members. Here's the photo set of the event.