Wednesday, May 07, 2014

SFIFF: Burt's Buzz

On Tuesday I caught the San Francisco International Film Festival screening of Burt's Buzz, a documentary profiling Burt Shavitz, the founder of Burt's Bees personal care products & the iconic bearded face on their packaging. Now in his 70s, he lives the same spare, backwoods existence in Maine that he adopted 50 years ago, after abruptly leaving a job as a photojournalist in New York. We see him puttering around his modest property & being interviewed about the peculiar shape of his life. Though emotionally inaccessible, he has a folksy charisma. I could completely identify when he said, "A good day is when no one shows up & you don't have to go anywhere." The film's most amusing sequences show him on an inane but jolly promotional tour for Burt's Bees in Taiwan. It's heart-rending to see him Skype his beloved dog while on the road.

Mr. Shavitz long ago sold his stake in the company, & Burt's Bees is now a subsidiary of Clorox. I was baffled & frustrated that Mr. Shavitz seems not to understand the significance of his being a corporate brand icon. The film includes interviews with several associates, none of whom quite know what's going on in his head either. Roxanne Quimby, Mr. Shavitz's former partner, who may have cheated him out of 200 million dollars, is conspicuously not among the interviewees. The use of the Tom Waits song "All the World is Green" at the end of the film is almost too perfect.

§ Burt's Buzz
Director: Jody Shapiro
Canada, 2013, 88 mins.

§ The 57th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival
May 3, 2014, 4:30 p.m.  Sundance Kabuki Cinema
May 6, 2014, 1:15 p.m.  Sundance Kabuki Cinema

No comments: