"Die Like an Egyptian" an Intriguing Doc Short
With its compelling subject matter, it's hard to imagine that Matt Mamula's documentary short Die Like an Egyptian won't be incredibly popular on the film festival circuit. The recently completed film has already been an official selection of the Little Rock Film Festival, Independent Film Festival of Boston and Indie Grits Film Festival and there's little doubt there will be quite a few more added along the way.
Mamula tells the story of 90-year-old Fred Guentert, an Orlando resident whose lifelong passion has come to be realized upon his completion of an Egyptian coffin.
I'll pause for a moment so you can let that sink in.
Since the age of eight, it has been Guentert's dream to build an Egyptian coffin after years of planning, research and actual construction. The film's success ultimately hinges upon Mamula's ability to sell the subject as worthy of our interest and, of course, on Guentert's ability to hold our interest.
Mission accomplished times two.
While the story is simply told, Mamula's doc exudes a sincerity that makes it apparent his genuine affection for this man having achieved a lifelong dream. While the subject matter could have easily been treated as a novelty, it isn't and the film is all the better for it.
Then, there's Guentert himself. Fred Guentert may be 90-years-old, but he is a life-filled joy to behold. He radiates an enthusiasm and passion and pride that can't help but make you pleased that he's followed his passion for Egyptian culture and accomplished one of his big dreams in life. He easily jokes about how he would know when his wife was fed up with him when she would send him out to work on his "box," a box that is exquisite to observe and remarkable in its fine detail.
Die Like an Egyptian does have, as one might guess from the title, a tongue planted ever so lightly in cheek but it's borne out of that natural lightness with which Guentert speaks and with which Mamula directs. Rather than poking fun at Guentert, he's clearly enjoying him immensely.
The only place where Die Like an Egyptian fell a tad short was in the sound mix, particularly in trying to balance the film's Mamula composed original score with Fred's occasionally low volume vocals. While it doesn't dilute the overall enjoyment of the story, there were at least a couple of occasions where I found myself straining to hear Fred over the score.
Minor quibbles with sound aside, Die Like an Egyptian is really the perfect subject matter for a short documentary because it captures a moment of triumph, if you will, in which a man achieves his dream and tells us exactly the right amount to make us be impressed by the story and happy by the man's triumph. While it's certainly not always necessary to "like" the subject of a short doc, in this case having spent a mere ten minutes with Fred Guentert I've come away a better person for it.
For more information on the film, be sure to visit the film's website linked in the credits.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic