SXSW FILM 2012
By Caitlyn Collins | March 23, 2012
Director: Jay Bulger
Writer: Jay Bulger
Starring: Ginger Baker, Jay Bulger, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Johnny Rotten, Neil Peart, Nick Mason, Carlos Santana, Steve Winwood
I really wish I knew more about music. It’s not that I’m completely ignorant on the subject, I just don’t know as much as I’d like. For instance, I grew up listening to Cream, but I had no idea who Ginger Baker was until I saw the SXSW award-winning documentary, Beware of Mr. Baker. Director Jay Bulger really knows his subject. After seeing an old video of Ginger Baker traveling through Africa, shown to him by a friend, Bulger began researching the temperamental drummer. After locating him, Bulger told Baker that he was writing a story for Rolling Stone magazine and coordinated a trip for an interview. The story actually did get published in Rolling Stone, but Baker’s charisma (or perhaps lack thereof) really should be seen rather than read.
Ginger Baker is one crazy son of a bitch by most accounts. Those accounts come from numerous big names in rock and roll – Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Neil Peart, Nick Mason, Johnny Rotten – to name a few. Bulger carefully weaves their interviews, as well as those of Baker’s ex-wives and children, with his own story. One thing all can agree on is that while Baker’s beginnings into the foray of drumming are based on jazz, he is the father of rock and roll drumming. For the majority of Baker’s life, drum kits and heroin take precedence over family and self-control. But even in his most drugged out stages, he never strays from pushing himself as a musician.
The video Bulger comes across looks at Baker’s first trip to Africa. The rhythms and drums found in African music fascinate Baker as does one influential musician, Fela Kuti. Baker also learns the game of polo, importing polo ponies wherever he ventures to next. After this trip, Baker is forever changed as a man and a musician.
Bulger’s subject matter makes this an interesting documentary to watch as do all of the interviews he was able to record. Bulger also utilizes well-drawn animations throughout, an element I have never seen in a documentary. Some of the animations are hilarious, serving to caricature the inflammatory behavior of Ginger Baker, while others seem superfluous. Overall, Beware of Mr. Baker is a great documentary regardless of your knowledge on the subject.