Roy’s World: Barry Gifford’s Chicago

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1st March 2020

Discover Chicago Like You Never Had Before

If you’re already been to Chicago then you’ve probably visited the John Hancock Center, Millennium Park, and the Willis Tower. Music like blues and jazz would have filled your soul vibrantly as well.

However, if you want to experience Chicago in most exceptional way, then we recommend you watch the latest documentary from director Rob Christopher (“Pause of the Clock”).

His “Roy’s World: Barry Gifford’s Chicago” is based on the work of the American author and poet Barry Gifford and it will allow you to see Chicago from a different perspective. The result? A wonderful, unique and intriguing feature that oozes nostalgia and the Chicago vibe.

The special and different perspective we talk about is the one that’s coming from writer Gifford himself. He might be known for his work such as “Wild at Heart: The Story of Sailor and Lula” and “Perdita Durango” which all got a film adaptation throughout the years.

Now his “The Roy Stories” awaits that same fate as Christopher uses that work are starting point for this documentary. The stories and this movie are almost autobiographical as we see the life of Gifford himself. It’s being told by someone named Roy but we all know that Roy is just Gifford.

Apart from a love for writing and Chicago, Gifford has an immense love for his parents as they are playing a vital part in the stories and documentary. His mother will occupy most of this documentary.

From her being pregnant, to remarrying a few times and from her modelling work in New York to her relocation to Chicago. Throughout the documentary, we get to see and feel what a lovely and charming mother she was, despite coming from a poor background.

We also get insight into Gifford his father’s life, who was a well-respected businessman. Even though the father lived during the prohibition, he was still able to get booze because of his connections. This made him incredibly popular. It seems that Barry’s family was always there for him, no matter how much his father and mother were different from each other.

However, the changing society and the shifts in politics did put a lot of pressure on their relationships. While Barry’s father gained more fame, his mother felt the rising repression against women. Will their marriage be strong and survive or will the developing political landscape and society be their doom?

You can certainly tell that this is probably the most exceptional and personal way to experience Chicago. At the same time, “Roy’s World: Barry Gifford’s Chicago” is also a wonderful documentary you will like for many different reasons.

The first reason is the incredible familiarity when it comes to the topics. There are the topics of family, childhood, love, hate but also pursuing dreams and having to deal with the shortsighted mind of the people around you. Of course, we didn’t have the same life as Gifford but we’ve all been through those phases and emotions.

You also get to know more about politics and society during that time. While Gifford’s parents weren’t homophobic or against gay people, they sadly had to endure racism themselves, especially his mother. It was about the superiority of white people against coloured people. Not also in society but also behind closed doors. The school Barry attended was mostly attended by white schoolchildren as there was no place for, let’s say, Hispanics.

Another reason why “Roy’s World: Barry Gifford’s Chicago” is a compelling documentary is the way it was created. Don’t expect scenes shot in a modern way or special effect. No, the director takes you back to Chicago in the ’50 by using black and white footage and also colourful videos and pictures.

The colours aren’t as bright and vibrant as we know them now. They all have that old and grainy texture. Whether it’s by using a colourful video of one of those typical cars from the time or a black and white picture of the front page of a newspaper from that time, Christopher transports you to Chicago in no time. Also, the personal videos that were shot by Gifford himself, give this movie a more special and up-close touch.

Last but certainly not least, there’s also the perfect chosen sound. There are the captivating voice-overs by esteemed actors actress Willem Dafoe (“Motherless Brooklyn”, “The Lighthouse”) and Matt Dillon (“Proxima”, “Rock Dog”) and the celebrated actress Lili Taylor (“Eli”, “The Nun”).

They turn the beautiful videos and pictures into a real charming documentary. Of course, a documentary about Chicago wouldn’t be complete without the blues and jazz music. Well, there’s certainly an abundance of that in “Roy’s World: Barry Gifford’s Chicago”.

The documentary just got its world premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival and will also be screened at the Manchester Film Festival in March. Sadly, there’s no nationwide UK release date so far but we hope that that will change soon. If it does, then you should definitely watch this authentic, intimate, emotional and beautifully made documentary.

The "Roy" stories of writer Barry Gifford serve as a springboard for an impressionistic portrait of a vanished Chicago.

Rob Christopher

Rob Christopher, Barry Gifford

Running Time:
1h 15min

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