Finder Keepers may just sport one of the most bizarre, madcap, premises for a documentary ever. If not that, then it at least takes the prize biscuit for trying to fathom an unquestionably bonkers situation.
Back in 2007, wheeler dealer Shannon Whisnant bought a BBQ grill from an abandoned lock-up. After getting the thing home and looking inside, he discovered a mummified human leg and went on to turn the thing into a tourist attraction. Enter John Wood, the troubled owner of said leg, who embarked on a years-spanning legal war with Whisnant to reclaim owner ship of HIS OWN GODDAMN FLESH!
Your eyes do not deceive you.
When you stand back from the unbelievable nature of the case, it’s not really about the leg. First time director Bryan Carberry, and his co-director Clay Tweel, understand that a documentary about strange people isn’t enough to satisfy. After a continuously laugh-out-loud first 20 minutes, they start to focus on Whisnant and Wood as damaged human beings, polar opposites who might not even understand for themselves what the leg actually signifies. Wood is a well humoured and fascinating figure, an ex-marine, junkie, and crash victim who lost his father in the same moment he lost his leg. Whisnant is a bit more complicated because he’s so irrefutably stupid, desperate, but honest too. Through Whisnant, Tweel and Carberry look at the effects of the media and Warhol’s “15 minutes of fame” on otherwise ordinary people.
It’s a tall order but Finders Keepers manages to take a frankly macabre piece of insanity and turn it into something endearing and important. Through intimate conversations with the families of both men, and a commendable need to look further than the media circus surrounding the case, Tweel and Carberry have crafted an impressive- not to mention gripping – piece of comedy gold that, like all comedy, has something deeper at heart.
Here’s a film that’s testament to the insanity of the human race. It paints a picture of desperation and stupidity so preposterous, it might even seem a little exploitative. But, considering how straight the stories told, Finders Keepers is less about laughing at country hicks, and more about what lengths people will go to to achieve some kind of redemption. Not to be missed.
Dir. Bryan Carberry & Clay Tweel
Stars. Shannon Whisnant, John Wood