Melbourne International Film Festival Review: Finders Keepers (USA, 2015)

Funded by Kickstarter and produced by the filmmakers behind The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, Finders Keepers is a documentary that tackles the bizarre story of a legal dispute between a man who lost his severed leg in a plane crash and the man who found the appendage inside his barbecue.

It’s the kind of story so crazy you know it has to be true – and perfect fodder for a good documentary. However, directors Bryan Carberry and Clay Tweel really give their all and spin the tale into a fascinating and compelling exploration of its two major subjects.

On one side, you’ve got the egotistical and entrepreneurial Shannon who genuinely believes that the media attention attached to the dispute is his “big break”. And on the other, you’ve got John, the humble-but-privileged drug addict haunted by the plane crash that cost him both his leg and his father.

Finders Keepers has a deft hand with setting up compelling questions about these two major players – and then answering them quickly and effectively. It peels back both the layers of these personas and establishes that that the struggle over the leg represents a lot more than is first apparent. What starts with a premise you can’t help but be curious about quickly spirals into a tragic exploration of how their shared obsession over the leg – alongside the media circus that comes with it – pushes both Shannon and John’s personalities to ludicrous extremes.

The film’s strongest moments are those that manage to hone in on this fascinating duality between John and Shannon. They both see the leg as an object of shock and awe, but for Shannon this manifests as a source of financial prosperity and entertainment – while for John it’s a chance to memorialize the the tragedy of the past.

Finders Keepers is a feature crafted by veterans of the genre – and it shows. Cinematographer Adam Hobbs knows when to keep it simple, and when to deploy powerful images that instill a sense of the picturesque within the absurd world that John and Shannon inhabit.

As far as contemporary documentary filmmaking goes, Finding Keepers is a masterful piece of work. It takes a bizarre premise and spins it out into a compelling tale about loss, ambition, the media and the emotional stakes attached to the personalities involved. It’s exceptional – and well worth a watch.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Finders Keepers screens at the Melbourne International Film Festival with the short Born to be Mild on Friday, 31st July and Tuesday, 4th August. For tickets and more details head to: http://miff.com.au/program/film/finders-keepers