Monday, October 3, 2011

MFF Film #27 - Becoming Santa

USA/Canada, 2010
Director: Jeff Myers

Jack Sanderson is a 44 year old man living in Los Angeles who, after losing his father (his mother passed away 10 years prior)decides that the best way to capture the Christmas spirit in a time when it's hard to find it would be to become Santa for a Christmas season.  The result is Becoming Santa, a documentary that chronicles Sanderson's journey, from getting his hair and beard bleached to attending an official Santa school in Denver.

Becoming Santa not only features Sanderson's journey, but features a large number of interviews with other Santas around the country, including some niche Santas like, "Civil War Santa".  Director Jeff Myers also delves into the history of the Santa story, dating back to St. Nicholas and even examines some of the racially provocative elements of the story, most specifically "Black Peter" who started out as a bad guy, but after some outcry over having a black person as the "bad guy" compared to the snowy white St. Nicholas, history was altered and now Black Peter is St. Nicholas' helper.  Never mind the mind-numbingly horrifying tradition of kids and adults alike dressing in black face to play the part, mainly in Europe. 

The film primarily focuses on Sanderson, however, and what a gem this guy is.  He possesses an amazing sense of humor, and is an incredible wit.  His comments and facial expressions had the audience I was in laughing, and I was in tears most of the time.  I genuinely wanted to be this guy's friend.  Though he is going balls out in his quest, (though he looked really cool, bleaching the hair and beard was just an astounding commitment) he is also very grounded and throughout the film, expresses indecision and doubt over whether this is something he would want to continue, despite everyone "in the know" asserting that he could be one of "the world's top Santas" if he stuck with it. 

Becoming Santa is one of the most enjoyable films I've seen in a long time, and it charmed me to death.  I don't think there was a time when I wasn't smiling while watching, (and usually laughing) and it exuded joy.  I'm not known for being a big fan of children, but seeing the pure, unadulterated joy and excitement on the childrens' faces when Sanderson would appear as Santa was incredibly heartwarming and it really hit me right in the heart because when was the last time you were that unabashedly happy about anything?  Becoming Santa made me happy and I not only loved it, but it may go into my coveted Christmas film yearly viewing schedule from now on.  See this movie, you won't regret it.  Better yet, wait until you need a pick me up and then see it.  You'll thank me.

MFF Ballot Rating: 5 out of 5

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