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Seen at Silverdocs: Winnebago Man

18 June 2009

Washington DC’s Silverdocs festival, in its seventh season, has become one of the major US showcases of documentaries. Sponsored by the American Film Institute (AFI) and the Discovery Channel, the festival “has both bolstered and capitalized on Washington’s reputation as ‘Docuwood,’ a city that churns out more nonfiction films than anywhere else in the United States” (The Washington Post Weekend, 6/12/09). Films screen at the AFI Silver (a beautifully restored deco theater) and the Round House Theatre in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland (the ‘Silver’ in Silverdocs).

We saw one the screenings, Winnebago Man. I confess I was completely in the dark about the film’s inspiration: a videotape that was dubbed and passed around starting in the late ’80s, outtakes from an industrial film made for Winnebago showing the spokesman cursing his flubbed lines, the crew, pesky flies…. When YouTube appeared, the tape made Winnebago Man (sometimes called the Angriest Man in the World) known worldwide. Ben Steinbauer, a fan of the tape, was intrigued enough to search out the story behind the tape and track down the man himself, Jack Rebney. The portrait of the cantankerous but dignified Rebney is funny and bittersweet.

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After the screening, the director and two of the producers were there to take questions. Ben Steinbauer, the director, suggested giving Jack (who lives in a cabin in the northern California woods) a call. (See photo above).  Steinbauer held his iphone up to mic: we heard an update from Jack and some in the audience asked him questions directly. Mr Rebney left us with the directive to keep our wits about us and to (politically) “Act! Act!”

(One audience member was a young girl who, we assume, wasn’t fazed by the film’s blue language. She was interested: she asked a question and was standing waiting to talk to the filmmakers at the end of Q&A session.)

https://i0.wp.com/www.hotdocs.ca/thumbs/resources/images/publicitystills/winnebago_man_2.720x405.jpg

Check out the original video and read more about the film here:

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