SCREENED AT THE 2008 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL: Don’t you always hate it when this happens: your father is a documentary filmmaker who has made some of the most important documents of the 20th century. He covered The Rolling Stones, ex-first lady Jackie Kennedy along with wacky salespeople, and has been championed by the film industry as the best in their game. Now, you want to do a profile on your father who died nearly a decade ago but your uncle rejects the idea as it may interfere with a film that he is trying to do.Sound familiar? Well, of course not, but if you’re Celia Maysles this is exactly the difficulty that her well done new documentary “Wild Blue Yonder” tries to cover. Celia’s dad is legendary director David Maysles, who with his brother Albert directed “Gimme Shelter”, “Grey Gardens” and “Salesman”, among many other films (these are all available on Criterion Collection DVD if you haven’t seen them yet). David himself was working on a doc called “Blue Yonder” as he died, which was the story of his father who died when he was young. “Wild” is about the personal quest to find out about her dad and to find the footage she needs to complete her story.
The doc is done in fairly standard fashion, utilizing hand held video cameras and a lot of intimate (sometimes brutally so) footage of Celia as she tries to find out more about her dad. It is at times heartbreaking to see this young, lovely woman in tears and fighting with Albert, who does not his work to be invaded upon, even by his niece. The video footage is also edited with old tapes of David’s therapist sessions and some still photos of Celia and David at a much younger time. What I especially liked was the subtle way these elements pull you into her very personal story, and I can only imagine what it was like to go through.
Celia is eventually aided by her doc team (including Charlene Rule who edits the film) along with the film’s executive producer (Henry Corra) who has worked with the Maysles in the past. The underlying power of the story is a woman who tries to find her way without copying the success of her dad. Celia wants nothing more than to find herself, but also to make movies (and most likely documentaries) and have a place in this world (don’t we all?).“Wild Blue Yonder” is a short 72 minutes but I connected strongly with the interview material, the style of how the documentary was done and all of the interview footage, which is painful to watch. It may find difficulty with distribution, however it is a solid documentary that will play strong on the festival circuit.