Judge Michel Nazarewycz is ready to take a shot every time Ron Weasley's name is mentioned.
The story of one man's attempt to find a woman who likes redheads.
I've never cared for the term "ginger" as a description for a redhead; I've always thought the term to be derogatory. Granted, it isn't as inflammatory as certain epithets borne of a disdain for someone's race, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation, but if you listen closely, you can hear a considerable degree of condescension when the word is spoken. I've never understood that, and I was hoping to gain some kind of understanding from this documentary.
Facts of the Case
Edinburgh College of Art student Scott Harris is both filmmaker and subject of this documentary, which has an initial intent of recording his efforts to find love in a world where he—because he is a self-described ginger—believes he is looked down upon as some freakish minority. But as the film progresses, Harris becomes more introspective about what is truly motivating him to delve into the issue of needing to be loved while being viewed as a lesser-class citizen.
While Being Ginger is a documentary in the literal sense, its filmmaking devices make it play much more like a video diary. There is no specific narrative, only a series of moments (some of them more closely connected than others) illustrating Harris' efforts to get a girl—efforts that take on a different and deeper meaning as the film progresses. (On a related note, the film's structure is two-act, not three, which lends well to the "one man show" aspect of it.) There is also no sense of the passage of time, other than filmed changes of seasons and an epilogue of sorts stating "5 Months Later." In addition to these, much of the filming is point-and-shoot; there is a camerawoman, but there is also a tripod.
Within that structural execution and after the lean 69-minute running time, Being Ginger amounts to nothing more than reality TV.
The first act of the film deals with what makes the film interesting: the set-up that plays on the general conception (allegedly) held by the public at large that redheads—gingers—are looked down upon to a considerable degree. I tend to think this is overstated in general, but I'm willing to go along with it. Harris uses this conceit as his hook. He's not a guy who can't get a date—he's a GINGER who can't get a date. The problem is that the connection between being a ginger and being unsuccessful in love is speculative at best; just because both facts are true doesn't mean one is the reason for the other. In fact, there are myriad reasons why Harris could have been romantically unsuccessful (at least in the film). The most obvious deterrent is that he's a foreigner pointing a camera at people, which will surely scare many away. But he's also shy and a little awkward around women, too (which is perfectly fine), and this is a far more plausible reason for failure than hair color or skin pallor. As one or in total, these things belie the entire premise of the experiment. If the other factors had been mitigated and if Harris had been George Clooney-like in his charm and he still couldn't find romance, then he might be able to point to the hair. Otherwise, it could just be the circumstances or it could just be him.
The second act becomes a blend of continued romantic pursuits, self-promotion of his film, and an epiphany about how the fact that he was bullied as a child might be the root of his self-esteem issues. This turns the film into something far more introspective, but it still feels like it's being done for show. There's a moment where he is about to tell a story about being bullied when he asks if the camera is rolling. He clarifies that there was a previous tale he told when the camera wasn't rolling and he feels like they lost that moment, but to ask if you are rolling suggests you are trying to manufacture a moment. Any sense of genuine self-realization becomes watered-down by the other aspects—hooks and promotion—of the second act.
The most ironic part of it all is that Harris finds other redheads unattractive. I'm not about to suggest he date anyone for the sake of getting a date, but perhaps he can better understand why he thinks people don't like him because he's a redhead if he would take a moment to reflect why he doesn't like redheads. His introspective pursuits need to be broadened.
Being Ginger was shot on a digital camera and all imagery on the 1.78:1 anamorphic presentation appears to have been transferred from the memory card to the DVD as-is. There are wild fluctuations in image quality (depending on the setting), with some shots presenting postcard-grade quality and others offering color bleeding along the edges of images. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo track also sounds as-is. Non-post-produced audio was recorded with a wireless mic attached to Harris at all times, and a boom mike (for interview subjects and other people in a given scene, as well as ambient noise). This creates what you would expect it to: various audio output levels—within the same scene and throughout the film—wreaking havoc with volume. One other technical note: while the DVD does not offer traditional subtitles, most (if not all) of the camerawoman's dialogue is subtitled because her offscreen voice is so faint. There are no extras.
As I say with every documentary I watch, "Just because a story is interesting doesn't mean it will make an interesting film." The problem with Being Ginger is that the story isn't very interesting. The hook is, sort of, but its cleverness grows old quickly, and if the root of Harris' dating woes is due to self-esteem issues borne of being bullied as a child, he has negated his own ginger theory, rendering the hook moot.
Guilty, regardless of hair color.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Garden Thieves Pictures
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