By Gregory Crofton
Sundance-Grand-Jury-Prize-winning documentary filmmaker Ondi Timoner likes to point her camera at anti-establishment thinkers who try to create their own worlds.
Think Anton Newcombe of BrianJonestown Massacre, featured in her rock documentary DIG! (2004), and Internet guru Josh Harris from her doc WE LIVE IN PUBLIC (2009), who convinced a group of people to live underground in New York City and have their lives broadcast online. Timoner, the only two-time winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for documentary, won awards for both of these films.
British comedian Russell Brand is Timoner’s most recent subject. She didn’t take home a Sundance prize for BRAND: A SECOND COMING (2015), now on Showtime and for rent here, but if you love documentaries you shouldn’t miss it. It pierces the bubble of our media-tech information age to fairly expose Brand for what he is: a driven and intelligent but egocentric man who worked like mad to achieve Hollywood fame only to quickly try to shed it in an attempt to return to his anti-authoritarian roots.
Timoner documents Brand in this honorable but awkward phase, completing the picture by interviewing his father, mother and close friends, and by delving into his sex, drug and fame addictions.
This stark exposure of Brand’s past and present is likely what caused him to distance himself from the finished doc, deciding just prior to its SXSW premiere to not join Timoner in promoting the film. This decision apparently came after she had made adjustments to the final cut to please Brand (who hired Timoner to make the film). An article by Matt Willstein of The Daily Beast reports the full story here.
Russell Brand is not the most likable man, and he’s not all that funny either, but Timoner and her team allow us to study his intellect and how success and fame have affected it. That is what makes BRAND: A SECOND COMING a fascinating biographical film that truly reflects its time.