Being Ginger Documentary

This very first-person documentary about anti-redhead bias raises some interesting issues it doesn’t pursue very far.

Being Ginger” is filmmaker Scott P. Harris’ lightweight inquiry into why it’s a liability to be a redhead — as it has been in his experience — and whether there’s a potential girlfriend out there for whom that might be an actual plus. Pleasant but slim in running time and substance, this very first-person documentary raises some interesting issues it doesn’t pursue very far, notably how widespread anti-ginger bias really is, or to what extent Harris’ hair color triggered childhood bullying that he’s clearly still getting over. The result feels like a class project (as indeed it began), stretched but not deepened to feature length. Nonetheless, lack of prior cinematic musings on the topic has served already VOD-available pic well in festival and one-off showings, signaling possible further commercial life.

Attending grad school in Scotland, where there’s no lack of ginger-haired folk, Harris — who has an amiably mild disposition to temper his fiery follicles — nonetheless feels at the same disadvantage he’s felt everywhere else. Why don’t women want to go out with him? (Of course, it’s also unclear whether he’s actually approached any for that purpose.) He decides to film himself asking people — preferably pretty young females — their feelings on the subject, as friends and collaborators rib his skittishness.

Not much is revealed, either about the pros and cons of being redheaded, or about Harris himself. We know he’s an American, but that’s about it. Perhaps his past dating history has heightened his insecurities, but if so, that intel is not shared. Does he have any criteria for potential girlfriends beyond “I like beautiful girls”? Not that we know of.

He does recall some formative grade-school bullying that sounds nasty. It would have been useful to have some witness corroborate and comment on those stories, however, since Harris provides no explanation of why an entire classroom and a cafeteria table of his own friends would have humiliated him repeatedly just because one kid asked them to. (We glimpse an old video interview with a teacher, who’s annoyingly cavalier about having found the future filmmaker frequently in tears, but who didn’t actually witness the peer bullying.) The one absolute wellspring of bias against redheads here (at least men — this seems to be one area where reverse sexism is the rule) is a young blonde whose many relevant “Ewww!”-oriented wisdoms may signify nothing more than a filmmaker’s luck in stumbling upon the shallowest idiot in Edinburgh.

Other gingers Harris runs across don’t have much to say about suffering prejudice, and some deny that they’ve experienced any. Eventually traveling to the world’s largest annual redhead gathering in the Netherlands, Harris feels unusually accepted, though one wonders if that self-confidence spike is really due to an all-redheaded milieu, or because he’s always assumed he was the odd man out before. (At one point he admits, “The issue’s always been, in my head, I felt like people around me hate me” — a stark confession that surely deserved some follow-up.) Certainly no one else seems to share his certainly that “gingers don’t date gingers.” He’s stunned upon finding himself attracted to one, as if an inviolable law had been toppled.

The subject may seem silly to those who had no idea redheads were more prone to negative reactions than those of any other hair color. But indeed, gingers have long been targeted for abuse and superstition: associated with witchery in Europe’s Middle Ages, sacrificed to the gods in ancient Egypt, etc. Unfortunately, none of that historical context is even referenced in “Being Ginger.”

There’s room for a more comprehensive docu on the theme (even room in this barely feature-length one, which promises a sequel at the end). As is, “Being Ginger” feels like a student short feigning to investigate a little-noted bias and to present its maker/host as an emotionally open book, yet in fact providing few meaningful revelations about either. Within its limits, it’s a breezy watch, with brief animations in the style of a child’s crayon-drawn cutouts diversifying the modest but decent assembly.

Film Review: 'Being Ginger'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, April 6, 2014. Running time: 69 MIN.

Production

(Documentary — U.K.) A Garden Thieves Pictures release of a Wisselvallig Films production. (International sales: Garden Thieves, Washington, D.C.) Produced by Scott P. Harris.

Crew

Directed by Scott P. Harris. Camera (color, HD), Lou McLoughlan; editors, Harris, Ben McKinstrie; music, Callum Barton; music supervisor, Dan Gough; animation, Cat Bruce.

With

Scott P. Harris, Ben McKinstrie, Kieran Gosney, Maverick McKinstrie, Alice McKinstrie, Lou McLoughlan.

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