Tuesday, October 20, 2020

AFI Fest Spotlight: Whirlybird

I’m delighted to be covering a number of selections from AFI Fest 2020. The festival runs October 15th-22nd, 2020, and films are available to watch online during that time.

Directed by Matt Yoka
Festival Information

Journalism has evolved considerably over the past few decades, and what used to be cutting-edge and of most interest to consumers has been replaced by new technologies and formats. Television news still appeals to an older demographic that became accustomed to getting information in that way and are reticent to subscribe to digital publications or read about what’s going on in the world through social media. For those who never grew up with a sense of the importance and relevance of TV journalism, this documentary offers a mesmerizing window into its excitement and intensity.

Before transitioning, Zoey Tur was known as Bob, one of the top faces of news in Los Angeles in the 1980s and 1990s. Bob married Marika Gerrard and, together, they raced to scenes of crashes or fires on a regular basis, always eager to catch the next story and get there before anyone else. Driven to be everywhere across the city, Bob decided he needed to get a helicopter so that he and Marika could travel quickly to get aerial shots of car chases and other enticing events. Bob was indeed one of the most energetic and omnipresent reporters at the height of his career, but the drive he felt impacted those in his orbit in a lasting and mostly negative way.

This film features limited interviews with Zoey, who speaks about Bob as if he was another person guilty of many things due in large part to the testosterone that drove him to anger. A wealth of footage provides remarkable insight into the relationship between Bob and Marika that typically involves Bob yelling at her to get better shots or lean further out of the helicopter to more competently frame the scene. Bob’s now-adult children also offer commentary on their upbringing, which often found them accompanying their parents to a crime scene or seeing their father through the lens of his always-present camera.

This film isn’t a complete critique of Bob since he personified the energy necessary to be there to cover many influential moments, including the 1992 riots and the pre-arrest chase involving O.J. Simpson. This film allows most of what was recorded either by or featuring Bob to make the case that living this life means sometimes putting the wrong priorities first, which has adversely affected those closest to him. This documentary manages to be thrilling and meaningful, constructing its content in an enthralling manner that showcases the passion behind it and pairing it effectively with the measured fallout. Though Bob’s legacy is unquestionably tainted by the way he treated people, his effect on the news industry was sizable, and this film serves as an appropriately complex tribute to his contributions.


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