There are countless documentaries about musicians out there, but none are as wild, crazy, violent, or honest as “Beware of Mr. Baker.” Winner of the 2012 SXSW Grand Jury Prize, this film lets the legendary Ginger Baker, drummer of Cream and countless other bands, tell his own story and he doesn’t try to sugar coat anything. We follow him through the high times and bad times no matter how ugly it gets. Even if you’re not familiar with the drummer, the opening of the film where he smacks filmmaker Jay Bulger with his cane is enough to convince you to sit down and watch this documentary.
Unlike other films about musicians where the filmmaker seems to get in the way and almost wants to become a subject of the movie themselves, Jay steps aside and lets Baker tell his whole dirty story. Of course, there are also anecdotes from other musicians, like Eric Clapton, Bill Ward, Johnny Rotten, Jack Bruce among others who have either worked with, hated, or admired the brash drummer. We also get insight from Baker’s kids, who don’t exactly paint the perfect family portrait when it comes to their father. The tales of drugs, destruction, broken marriages, and multiple successes and failures make you love, hate, pity, and love Baker again when you watch it.
One thing that makes this film so great is the footage that’s included. There are clips of Baker playing in his various bands and side projects, including Cream, several vintage interviews with him, and countless photos. Of course there isn’t footage for everything mentioned, but Bulger makes up for it by including well drawn and entertaining animated sequences to recap what’s being described. Not only is it a creative way to tell the story, it gives the audience something else to look at besides musicians sitting in a room talking.
Another thing that makes the film fantastic is it’s informative. You’re bound to learn about Jazz music, the thing that inspired Baker to play the drums, along with learning about the history of Cream and the other bands Baker’s played in. It’s also entertaining because we see Baker telling us his story. It’s not just various interview clips of the drummer from different eras or people who have worked with or claim to know Baker talking about him. He tells us his music history, even if it clashes with what someone else says. But that’s the beauty of it; Jay gives us both sides of the story. He doesn’t paint Baker as a horrible person, yet he doesn’t make him out as a hero. He just wants to let the man tell his story and to show the type of person he is.
“Beware of Mr. Baker” just finished it’s run at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago. The film is still going around the country for several showings. It’s next screening will be in Albuquerque, New Mexico on February 17. The film will also be on VOD February 26 via SnagFilms. For information about the film and to watch the trailer to see what the fuss is about, visit Bewareofmrbaker.com.