SXSW Documentary Review: ‘Clerk’ And Interview With Director Malcolm Ingram

By James Lindorf

When you are scrolling through the documentary section of your favorite streaming service, you’ll pass by most with little to no consideration of hitting play. It is nothing against those movies, but because documentaries are about more than just entertainment, they can sometimes feel like work. Everyone knows the old saying if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. The same can be applied to documentaries; if you have a passion for or even just a casual interest in its subject, it will never feel like work to sit through. However, if you take someone who loves driving and working on fast cars and make her watch two hours about the history of needlepoint, it will feel like they lost ten hours of their life. Making 13 movies in 27 years would be enough to garner most people some degree of notoriety. When you add in the speaking engagements, the television work, and the podcasting Kevin Smith has become a nerd and pop culture icon with a vast and loyal fan base.

The last three years have been a whirlwind, starting with the shocking news of Kevin’s near-fatal heart attack after a show in early 2018. That event was followed by his recovery, weight loss, and the push to make the “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot.” Those significant life-altering events all combined to overshadow what should have been a celebration of “Clerks” and Kevin’s 25 years in the film industry. Director Malcolm Ingram decided now is the time for that celebration, and his new film “Clerk” made its world premiere at SXSW Online 2021.

Anyone looking to hear interesting new facts or a salacious story or two may want to look elsewhere because “Clerk” is an examination and celebration of Kevin Smith’s life. It isn’t out to tell you something that Kevin hasn’t already told you; it would probably be an impossible task, to begin with. “Clerk” delves deep into Kevin’s early life and his passion for movies with the help of his friends, family, and long-time business partners.

Kevin’s public journey began at another film festival, the Utah-based Sundance Film festival, where his DIY film “Clerks” took the film world by storm. Smith has always given his fans what they want, from a small black and white film he financed on credit cards to multi-million-dollar studio productions. His unique sense of humor and authentic approach to storytelling present in every project has entertained them for nearly three decades. “Clerks” is the element of Smith’s life that gets the most screen time.

A third of the films covers everything from what led him to writing the story, the struggle to make the movie, and its reception. Ingram never claims to provide an objective look at Smith’s hit-and-miss filmography because that would detract from the documentary’s lighthearted and joyful nature. “Clerk” isn’t for detractors or critics; it is for current fans and lapsed fans who lost track of Smith years ago and wonder if there’s anything they should catch up on. Just when you begin to feel the length, “Clerk” changes focus and gives you a new reason to laugh and reminisce.

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