Never have I seen so many beards in one place, never mind in a film about men who grow them.
Men With Beards is a documentary directed by Michael Sanders and Dylan Fries, which premieres in Calgary on November 16 at the Globe Cinema as Movember reaches its halfway point.
But over the last few years, what used to come just once a year for men has now grown to encompass all 12 months. For those men who have been explaining their beards for as long as they’ve been growing, Men with Beards can now replace that tiresome habit.
Sanders and Fries have explored new territory with their film and they did it with complete ease. The film flows smoothly from one beard to the next, over the many issues and questions these men face on a daily basis, from how other people see them, how annoying it can be to eat and how they groom their chin hair.
I sat down with the directors over Skype to discuss their film and the beard trend. Answers have been edited for clarity.
BeatRoute: The film was very interesting. It was different than other documentaries as most of the film is just talking to people and not much else.
Michael Sanders: There’s this tendency to cover every minute of interview with B-roll. It was an idea that would let us get away with making a documentary for almost no money, but would also serve the content matter of the subject itself because you don’t need to cut away: what you’re talking about is on the guy’s face.
BeatRoute: How did you come up with this idea?
Dylan Fries: The whole thing started because a friend and I drove to the World Beard and Moustache Championships in Alaska.
MS: I said, “Why don’t you take a camera?” and he came back with 30 hours of footage. Dylan said what’s more interesting than the footage of the competition were the stories of the guys he met and how it seemed there was this immediate bond formed simply because of their facial hair. It seemed like an idea right off the top that in theory we could shoot interviews with 20-30 guys and they’d all tell the same story. The idea didn’t just materialize: an opportunity presented itself. It just happened that we took a long time and now we have good timing because everyone seems to be obsessed with beards.
BeatRoute: It’s true. Movember has taken on a life of its own.
MS: We can’t say that we saw it coming, but we definitely saw how people were reacting to guys when we first started.
DF: We actually restructured the film so it wouldn’t end on a downer because the whole experience was such a positive thing. It was all about these guys coming together and now we’re involved in the beard clubs and we’re fundraising for that and there’s real positive momentum and it’s neat to be a part of. More than anything, it’s been a fun project.
BeatRoute: Did you have beards before you started doing any of this?
MS: I stopped shaving basically when we started shooting interviews. But I trim mine obsessively. I can’t let it go long.
DF: When we decided on going to the beard championships, I ended up just having the moustache for that. The beard guys tend to look at a moustache like, “That’s a great start and we encourage you to continue the journey.” It sort of just emerged out of the whole process, like a byproduct.
BeatRoute: Favourite beard in film? I’m a fan of Forrest Gump’s big beard.
MS: I think my favourite is in Faust (1926), where Faust’s beard is down to his ankles.
DF: I try to think of big solid beards in movies and that’s the thing we found. In pop culture, it disappeared for like 50 years. It’s interesting watching the media now because they’re like, “Beards!” And then they show a guy with two days’ stubble.
MS: Christian Bale is going to play Moses for Ridley Scott. The question is, is he going do it hardcore and grow his own beard?
BeatRoute: Will the theatres be filled with mostly guys?
MS: The working title while editing was “Men Talking About Their Feelings.”
MS: Easily half of the audience, if not more, will be women, because there’s a curiosity there for women.
DF: I think it’s a movie anyone can come out and enjoy, regardless of how much hair you have on your face or not. You don’t go, “Oh I can’t go see a movie about killer whales because I’m not a killer whale.” At some level, it’s a movie about making an effort to understand what’s behind the surface of people and not just taking them at face value.
Men With Beards screens at the Globe Cinema on November 16th, 17th, 19th and 20th. If you would like more information about the film or the upcoming screenings in Calgary, visit http://www.electricmonkmedia.com/
By Shannon Buckley
Photos: Courtesy of Michael Sanders