Documentary Inspiration: Resurrect Dead


With so many great fauxcumentaries around, such as Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop and Catfish, it's hard to believe the 2011 Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles is not among them.



It's a tale of self-taught Philly free thinking artists who do odd jobs to get by while remaining fixated on the street pounded tiles which have mesmerized so many and appeared in far ranging locations, many in Philadelphia itself, but also all the way to Kansas City, down the east coast, and in Latin America as well.

Like Banksy, they pay homage to guerrilla art with their own brilliant documentary. The film's style and musical score are reminiscent of work by the great Errol Morris .

The tiles in question are a call for scientists to fulfill God's promise, invoking a cult movie, a curious philosopher and a dangerous planet.

Many of these tiles have side notes which turn the art project into the ravings of a madman whose street credibility and wish to be heard are matched by ingenious technique, perseverance and what seems like a raging fear of dying. He is both irrelevant in his words but unmatched as a public artist, a more hardcore, less self-aware and attention-seeking, to the point, paranoia driven predecessor of artists such as Banksy and JR.

The star of the movie is whimsical, hilarious quote machine, beater of his own artistic drums Justin Duerr who personifies the search for finding the tile-maker(s?), and whose changing haircuts over the years are entertaining in their own right. The film also serves as a sort of homage to fonts, computers, early chat rooms and search engines of yesteryear since most of the material seems to have been filmed in the 1990s.

Now being on promoted Netflix, I highly recommend this investigative documentary, which also puts into question whether celebrated playwright David Mamet lied about hearing a pre-tile middle of the night call to former radio titan Larry King, which may or may not have happened.

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