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VIFF movie review: My Father and the Man in Black

1.5 out of 4 stars

Title
My Father and the Man in Black
Directed by
Jonathan Holiff

The story itself is compelling: director Jonathan Holiff recounts his father Saul's life story – in particular Saul's association with Johnny Cash, revealing a little-known Cash connection to Canada. Saul Holiff, son of London, Ontario retailers who lost everything during the Great Depression, worked his way south and ultimately became Cash's manager at a crucial time in his career. That's not the happy ending: even before his infamous 1965 arrest in El Paso, Texas, Cash's abuse of drugs and alcohol had become intense. He goes MIA and misses a string of concerts, leaving Holiff to pick up the pieces – financially and otherwise. Holiff ultimately fires Cash and returns to life in Ontario. But Saul and Jonathan have a strained relationship and become estranged. This film is Jonathan's reckoning with his father, years after his suicide. Fascinating stuff, right? The execution, however, does not live up to the story's promise: with poorly-staged re-enactments, and a stilted voice-over in which the director/narrator/writer/son oozes disconnection not just from his father, but from his own story.

Oct. 2, 10:45 am Pacific Cinémathèque; Oct. 9, 6:30 pm Granville 7; Oct. 11, 2:50 pm Granville 1.

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