'Forgotten Silver' Review: Unforgettable Gold
Just as Peter Jackson was making his way up into working in Hollywood, he did a little mockumentary called Forgotten Silver about “lost” filmmaker Colin Mackenzie. Him and his writing and directing partner Costa Botes showed the film to an audience that had no idea that it was all fiction, only to reveal the truth shortly after. If they believed Jackson and Botes, I can’t blame them. This movie shows the amazing creativity and imagination of Jackson as a director, and produced on a scant budget of six hundred and fifty thousand dollars, Jackson and Botes show how to make the best out of what they had.
The story focuses on Jackson himself being called to an old neighbor’s house to see what the deal is with abunch of film cans that were found in a basement. He takes them to a laboratory and he discovers that they belonged to a filmmaker called Colin McKenzie. From that footage, he decided to put his films back together, to get a full portrait of the man and his life. McKenzie is revealed to be a filmmaking pioneer, beating out his later peers in techniques such as hidden cameras, tracking shots and biblical epics. But as many geniuses, he had a life full of failure and tragedy that led him to be lost to the ages.
Forgotten Silver is short, funny and sweet. Everything feels authentic that it’s easy to see why it would have been easy to believe it all when it first came out. Jackson and Botes play the whole thing straight, not only as filmmakers but as actors themselves. Some pretty well-known figures from Kiwi and American cinema make special appearances and not one of them sells the fact that it’s a joke. If you know the movie’s conceit, it can be a bit obvious, but the movie never exaggerates it to the point that it’s easy for the uninformed to call it out.
But much like it’s lead Colin McKenzie, both Jackson and Botes provide a lot of ingenuity to the movie. The costume and production design wonderfully imitate the period setting, with the McKenzie footage feeling like the real deal. But what’s best is that the movie is always enjoyable to watch. There are many funny scenes and ideas, and we get to feel as if McKenzie was an actual, real filmmaker. Jackson and Botes perfectly construct his backstory. But the film’s biggest success is in its imitation of a biblical epic. It’s only briefly seen, but it feels true. Supposedly it took up a half of the film’s budget but it manages to look more real than even what the best high-budget CGI can afford.
Say what you will about Peter Jackson, even if it seems like his movies have gotten weaker since the Lord of the Rings trilogy, his older films haven’t lost that spark of imagination that made them memorable in the first place. Forgotten Silver must be seen if you’re interested in Jackson or in films. If you’ve watched older, silent movies and know a bit about the history of cinema, it’ll only be funnier.