Directed by Steven Blatter & Lorenzo Valmontone Starring Wayne Paul Documentary Film Review by Evie Brudenall
Fiction forms of filmmaking strive to create dramas that are rife with character complexities; rich backstories that account for the present actions of the protagonist, epiphanies during their journey and the quest for noticeable character development. However, the result often fails to delve beneath the shallow exterior, but documentary features frequently triumph and succeed. Case and point: Jumping the Shadows.
At the heart of Jumping the Shadows is Wayne Paul, a man born and bred in East London. From childhood, he was fated for a life of drugs, crime and violence but eventually discovered a life of music and desire to ward others off of a bleak and avoidable destiny. Unflinchingly honest, Wayne and those closest to him chronicle his journey as the tough crooner, who despite his circumstances, retains his inner child and youthful energy.
Initially, audiences are kept at a distance from Wayne, as he is predominantly talked about by those who know him as a widely respected member of the community. Cinematographer and co-director Steven Blatter contributes to the creation of the inferred enigmatic figure as Wayne is obscured or never fully revealed through carefully constructed camera angles. He is a mystery. A code to be cracked. But as the documentary progresses, Wayne becomes more vulnerable and open in his confessions. We begin to decipher him from anecdotes of his childhood, and the camera acts accordingly. For example, as Wayne recalls his abusive father and developing stutter, the camera offers extreme close-ups, as if we’re piercing the veneer and cool exterior.
The access the filmmakers were granted into Wayne’s World (a good alternative title, don’t you think?) and the candour of the interviewees is instrumental in the intricate and contradictory depiction of Wayne: he encourages youth to expand their horizons and find a way out of their conditions, but he himself seems perfectly content to remain within the community. He is considered to be a pillar of strength and stoicism, but admits that he cries at Lassie and frequently goes to his mother’s for dinner. He warns others off of a path of destruction but laments that his past hostile behaviour could be triggered easily. The multiple dichotomies that encompass Paul are what make Jumping the Shadows a compelling character case study and give it an unanticipated reach.
The reach seems even more extensive through Blatter and Valmontone’s seamless blending of poetically cinematic shots with simple interview footage that reinforces the verisimilitude that Jumping the Shadows so brilliantly achieves. The stylistic choice can be viewed upon as a commentary for the themes the documentary poses; although life can be beautiful, unpredictable and even at times filmic, every shred of it is authentic. As Wayne describes his troubled home and school life, he expresses, “It seemed like I was getting it from all sides of the globe” – and for a little over an hour, we are fully immersed in his reality, and in turn, are forced to reflect upon our own.
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