I only had the opportunity to check out one film during this years Hot Docs festival and luckily that one film was the stellar The Parking Lot Movie.
The documentary is about a small parking lot in Charlottesville, Virginia that is operated by a diverse collection of outcasts, intellectuals, and weirdos. Past employees share past experiences and horror customer stories that are wildly entertaining, while the current employees live out new horror stories caught on film.
First time director Meghan Echman is a natural behind the camera and edits this film to perfection. It flows extremely well and in my head i found myself saying "please don't end" as the film went on.
So how on earth could a film about a parking lot be so entertaining? Well, the film actually has little to do with the parking lot per say. It is about people in a lowly respectable position having to deal with people who look down upon them. Sound familiar?
The film can get angsty but rightly so, when you are watching a woman in a hummer arguing with the attendant over 40 cents you get more than a little steamed. Luckily all the attendants hold their own to often hilarious effect.
The loyalty the workers have to the parking lot is the result of the loyalty they have to their boss. Chris Farina, the owner of the lot, treats his workers with respect and friendliness. This in turn boosts the workers morale, as one of the attendants notes; if their boss wasn't Chris then he wouldn't chase cars down the street for a measly buck or two.
It no longer becomes money for the lot, it becomes Chris's money and the attendants aren't about to let people steal from him.
The film is reminiscent of I Like Killing Flies in that it features personal philosophies from someone you would expect to not be too interesting. Only here it is multiplied countless times and every talking head has something to share that is either insightful, interesting or hilarious. At the end of the film it is revealed what the workers are doing now with their lives since filming and it's not the least bit surprising that many have gone on do to amazing things. Some are university professors, some are writers, and some are famous musicians.
During the Q & A with the director, Meghan went on to say that as she has been touring she has noticed that some people really resonate with the film and i'm glad to be one of those people. As i walked out of the theater a man in a blazer and tie walking up the aisle beside me said to the party he was with that the film was awful and i immediately thought of something Scott had said once, "You can usually tell within a few moments whether or not someone has worked in customer service or not".
For me the film was such a parallel on what i experience working at The Film Buff. Chris Farina is very much like Scott and we go out of our way to make sure people don't take advantage of the business because it's not stealing from the store, it's stealing from a friend.
Us employees at the Buff are a group of personal philosophers, deadbeat dreamers, and understimulated wackos who wage a personal war everyday against those who would look down their nose at us as we scoop them ice cream or rent them Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
The rights have yet to get picked up but they will be. A fantastic documentary through and through.