THE SHOW ABOUT THE SHOW
In the fall of 2015, a slight buzz started to build up around The Show About the Show, the latest self-reflective work from provocateur extraordinaire, Caveh Zahedi. For the uninitiated – Zahedi has been making cringe-worthy (in a good way!) “documentaries” centered on himself for nearly three decades. In these films everything he’s thinking gets said and everything he’s told by others gets repeated and any mishap, confusion or private moment might be forever etched on digital video and entered into his lightly drug addled filmography. My introduction to his work came via his low-fi-before-it-was-cool feature In the Bathtub of the World wherein Zahedi pledges to film himself for one-minute everyday from his tub and share his life with viewers. The resulting film, coming somewhat on the heels of the über-realistic Blair Witch Project, had me and most who saw it questioning how “real” Zahedi’s video journal was. Having since followed his career, highlighted by the fabulously awkward doc-hybrid I Am A Sex Addict (2005) I’m still unclear on what’s real and what isn’t. But really, that’s the nature of documentary filmmaking and even if Zahedi is bluffing here and there his bluffs (real or imagined), much like those of Werner Herzog in his documentaries, add a certain dash of truth that is almost impossible to capture in a film filed as a “true” documentary. This brings us mostly up to speed as we get back to Zahedi’s latest effort, The Show About the Show.
Anyone who’s ever taught a group of young people a class on filmmaking has likely dealt with the inevitable poor planning on their behalf which eventually causes the students decide to “make a movie about the making of this movie.” Zahedi doesn’t do exactly that but the irony Zahedi is a college professor and his students wander in and out of the film isn’t lost on me. But The Show About the Show is much smarter and funnier than a jettisoned college film reconfigured to save a grade.
The Show About the Show is about Zahedi’s opportunity to pitch programming to Brooklyn media company Bric. Per his usual, Zahedi spends the time he could spend planning for this opportunity by instead haranguing his wife (who may be the most patient woman on earth), playing with his kids, endlessly worrying and smoking weed. Think Woody Allen with a bong. When his day comes to pitch to Bric, he really has nothing substantial planned. After some half-baked ideas, Zahedi finally decides to make a show about the show he’s trying to get made on Bric. The results are often hilarious, surprisingly brilliant, completely awkward and usually amazing.
It would be akin to explaining time travel to try and explain the nuts and bolts of The Show About the Show so, just stick with the title and see the film for clarity. Leaning on cameos and support from friends and indie stalwarts like Alex Karpovsky, Dustin Guy Defa, Onur Tukel and Eleonore Hendricks, Zahedi weaves a solipsistic web of comical honesty wherein he details every moment of his “Show About the Show” straight to the camera. If Zahedi thinks a co-star has “a thing” for him, he says so by breaking the fourth wall. Then he follows up by following up in real life and presenting those results again, to camera. If someone gets drunk and misbehaves on camera, they’re going in the film. Again, it’s often difficult to tell what’s “real” and what’s “not” but the results are engaging to say the least.
If you’ve often heard about Zahedi’s work but have yet to check it out, The Show About the Show is a great entry point. While yes, the initial The Show About the Show is available online, the stellar distribution company Factory 25 has released the entire series as one, standalone film. It also has higher resolution than the online version, a few tweaks, a new ending only available on the feature and it’s uncensored.
– Don R. Lewis (@ThatDonLewis)