As someone who often refers to myself as gimp, a slang term for disability that some consider to be a tad derogatory, I will confess to still having winced on more than one occasion as I sat and watched Scott P. Harris, the filmmaker and subject of Being Ginger, repeatedly refer to himself as a "ginger" in a tone that reaked of low self-esteem and raging insecurity. "Ginger," a term referring to being a red-head and not a term having anything to do with guys in drag playing Hollywood starlets stuck on "Gilligan's Island," is clearly the source of a lifetime of emotional, and at times physical, trauma for the intelligent and thoughtful Harris.
Harris, an American who got a degree in radio/film/TV from the University of Texas before relocating to Edinburgh, Scotland, serves up an illuminating, entertaining, and deeply felt nearly 70-minute feature documentary that begins as a bit of a ruse when he heads out on the streets of Edinburgh determined to interview primarily women about their attitudes toward men with red hair but, in actuality, he's really hoping to find an attractive woman who openly admits to preferring said men.
Over the course of the film's 70-minute running time, Being Ginger becomes much more than simply the latest confessional-styled documentary and becomes a film about one man's journey to renew his confidence while also acknowledging a lifetime of subtle and not so subtle bullying and, as well, the myriad of ways in which we seem to find to label one another and reject one another.
For those who abhor confessional writing or filmmaking, Being Ginger may prove to be a maddening experience. The film reminds me, on a certain level, of the film Unhung Hero, a similarly toned documentary directed by Patrick Moote in which he almost seems to exorcize the demons attached to being a guy with a small penis. While Being Ginger isn't quite that intimate, Harris is a rather vulnerable young man who seems to spend much of the film working through and exorcizing the demons attached to having lived a life of rejection due to being a "ginger."
Now then, some of you are probably shaking your head and thinking to yourself "Sounds like he needs a good therapist." There are probably a few others of you saying aloud "Nah, he just needs to get laid."
Yes. And yes.
Truthfully, while the early stages of Being Ginger are a bit maddening at times because Harris does seem to be a guy who has been suffering for years. In fact, the damage seems so extreme that it's easy to understand why making a film became the answer - Harris, it would seem truly needed to make this film.
Being Ginger actually had its world premiere in 2013 at the Irish Redheads Convention, a world premiere that may give you some indication that while Harris takes this all incredibly seriously he's also a smart young man in terms of marketing and he does have a sense of humor. The film was originally envisioned as a short film, but the more Harris started filming the more material that seemed to rise to the surface. The film, while having being a redhead at the center of its subject matter, is far more about how to live life being different and how to get to a point of self-acceptance. On more than one occasion, I found myself contemplating the "It Gets Better" campaign, a campaign that has targeted LGBT youth. While being a redhead may not carry with it the same baggage that goes with being an LGBT youth or an African-American youth or another minority, Harris has crafted it into a film that powerfully addresses how easily we can do damage to one another with our words and our actions. One of the most powerful examples of this in the film is when Harris goes back to visit an early childhood teacher whose impact, through words the teacher continues to describe as being in fun, has given Harris memories that he carries with him to this day.
While much of Being Ginger is built around Harris's own life experiences, the film rather surprisingly never feels overly self-indulgent or narcissistic. Throughout much of the film, the director is joined by a female friend, Lou, and he openly shares the screen with many others throughout the film's running time. Being Ginger is practically a textbook case of how one can intentionally choose to film one's own life experiences without allowing the film to turn into a pity party or one-note doc. Instead, Being Ginger is an entertaining, intelligent, and emotionally satisfying film with an engaging and rather endearing young man whose ability to open his heart and mind may very well lead you to do the very same.
After a successful festival run and multiple theatrical dates in the U.S., Being Ginger has been picked up by Garden Thieves Pictures for a VOD and DVD release. You can catch the film yourself on Itunes, Amazon Prime, and Vimeo. For more information on the film, visit the film's website linked to in the credits on the left.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic