Midway through “Being Ginger,” the filmmaker Scott P. Harris makes a somewhat startling announcement, admitting that he’s lost all self-confidence. The statement confirms the obvious as we’ve already witnessed Harris stumble through some uncomfortable man on the street interviews based on the premise that his auburn hair has been a preventative in meeting the right woman. Yet it comes as Harris is watching himself in an editing bay, looking on as he wears a sandwich board that reads, “Looking 4 a woman who likes Gingers. Seriously.”
The irony isn’t lost on Harris, who takes the opportunity to change the course of the film from a lighthearted look at the prejudice against redheaded men to a surprisingly compelling analysis of both how his hair led him to develop a self-defeating attitude and what happens when your film isn’t what you thought it’d be initially. The unusual level of transparency in both areas is what separates “Being Ginger” from its similarly-themed brethren where the filmmaker puts him or herself front and center.
Harris doesn’t have the force of personality of, say, a Morgan Spurlock, which is evident from the opening narration in which Harris monotonously describes how as a ginger, he’d always be told he was cute by women who would then add, “My friend would love you.” Accompanied by appropriately cute animation, the film seems as if it’ll be just as superficial, introducing Harris as just another filmmaker using a slim thesis to thrust himself into the spotlight. Yet soon enough, there are signs that the production of “Being Ginger” is actually intended to bring its director out of his shell, coaxed on by an unidentified camerawoman to talk to the opposite sex.
Naturally, the beginning is as tortured as Harris appears to be, following him as he pursues a woman he meets while doing interviews on the campus of The University of Edinburgh in Scotland where the filmmaker is attending grad school. His use of a release form to track her down via Facebook is as unseemly as it sounds, despite his claims that he doesn’t want to be perceived as creepy, yet the fact that he didn’t leave this on the cutting room floor is part of the reason why “Being Ginger” ultimately evolves into something significant.
Harris actually lets the audience in on the choices that he makes about the final shape the film will take as they’re happening, describing how showing rough cuts with friends have went and gathering reactions as he goes. This might sound like biding time for its already compact hour-long running time, but the behind-the-curtain material actually leads for a breakthrough for Harris, who discovers he should’ve been making a film about the reasons why he can’t work up the confidence to speak to women rather than why women won’t speak to him, a sense of purpose he realizes he’s been working towards for over a decade and had no idea.
Harris comes by this “aha” moment honestly, in the process touching on something timely by examining the withering impact that the bullying incurred from his red hair has had on his life. He doesn’t forgo the lighter tone of the film’s early minutes, though the film’s rawness makes for uneasy transitions. Still, he finds an agreeable conclusion in Holland, where he screens the film for the international convention of Gingers and gets a full perspective of Ginger culture as well as acceptance in a place where he no longer stands out as much. Thankfully, “Being Ginger” isn’t as content to just be one in a crowd, translating its peculiar premise into something as unique and worthy of celebration as its filmmaker’s mane.
“Being Ginger” will be released through Tugg in early January. A full list of screenings can be found here.