Mau | Review | SXSW Film Festival 2021

 Photo Credit: © Les Produits Frais, 2020

Mau captures its subject's energy within mere seconds. The rhythmic optimism of I Zimbra by Talking Heads plays under beaming admiration from friends and colleagues of designer Bruce Mau. "Enigmatic", "visionary," for viewers unfamiliar with Mau, you're given a dynamic portrait of the world Bruce has designed for himself by first-time directors Jono and Benjamin Bergmann. 

Mau seemingly has his hand on the design of the doc, with it all feeling part of the same aesthetic universe where hopeful artists who want to use their craft to change the world thrive. It adopts and clings to the idealism that radiates from Mau while diving deeper into the story behind the person. Although it wishes to capture both the impact of the persona and the work, it does a great job of giving a framework so that both familiar and unfamiliar audiences can connect and engage. It provides a backstage pass to the stories behind his work and speaks to the culture we're living in where blame and non-compassionate understanding exists. It rides through the highs and the lows but always wishes to connect back to the heart of what Mau describes as "fact-based optimism". 

The score mirrors Mau's soul as the Bergmanns weave us back through time towards childhood, where we take a look at the place he grew up. The use of a non-linear structure is highly effective as we watch Mau walk through a house he has not only soulfully outgrown but physically, too. It's tender and intimate and as unpredictable as life itself. The film ends somewhat in limbo as the imagined ending doesn't match the reality of the unexpected twists and turns that the pandemic has had on the arts industry. 

 Mau is a strong and defining directorial debut from the Bergmanns, who currently are well underway on many new and exciting projects. Seeing the world through Mau's eyes and the people who love him is a gift. His message of "perseverance" and "staying in the game" perhaps made even more effective by the current global climate. A film that provides inspiration, catharsis and a dose of hope for a world in desperate need of healing.  

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Mau is playing as part of the 2021 SXSW Film Festival

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