Bill Direen: A Memory of Others: DVD

Two types of music documentary are becoming very formulaic. One is the obligatory doc about a seminal band with a boring origin story. The second is a documentary about how mainstream success has eluded some artist. In A Memory of Others, director Simon Ogston dodges the typical pitfalls of the latter while still exposing the enigmatic career of Bill Direen to a larger audience. Ogston breaks from convention, not by dramatically categorizing the ups and downs of Direen’s career in a conventional timeline, but instead choosing to showcase Direen’s phases based on the flow of their discussions.

Direen is New Zealand’s punk-Shakespeare, similar to John Cooper Clarke or Jim Carroll. He’s played in punk bands, written poetry, and done experimental theater. Direen is a humble optimist with rough charisma. Ogston follows Direen on a recent tour of coffee houses, art spaces, and small bars in New Zealand. Direen makes music, gives talks, and reads poetry in front of small gatherings of enthusiastic fans, all the while gently proselytizing about what it means to be an artist through discussions about his career.

Ogston takes a refreshing turn by utilizing few talking head interviews and their footage of the New Zealand landscape is masterful. The only frustration with the film comes with the decision to tell the story out of order. There is no cataloguing of bands’ eras, more or less. As the film unfolds, it makes sense in congress with Direen’s attitude towards art. The film paints a portrait of an interesting artist and a nice guy who is relatively happy with what his compulsion to create has brought him in life. He’s an inspiring man and the film does Direen’s attitude justice. –Billups Allen (Self-released)