Denver Direct: Film review: Beware of Mr. Baker

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Film review: Beware of Mr. Baker

Opinion by Gerald Trumbule

Last February I wrote about a call from Jay Bulger that got me involved in his documentary movie about Ginger Baker, the infamous drummer in Cream, Blind Faith, etc. Jay came to my place, taped an interview with me, and started negotiations to access the 8 hours of Baker footage I had in my possession. Clark Burch, bass player and neophyte videographer, had been insistent that I help him with this Baker project. We trudged down to Parker on numerous occasions to shoot inadequate (needed better lenses) footage of Baker on horseback. Burch became Baker’s buddy and had many “Ginger” stories.
 Before he died, Burch finished a short jazz video of Baker, but when I later tried to post it on YouTube, it was rejected because it contained the music from Baker’s album, “Falling Off the Roof”, and, of course, Burch, ignoring my advice, had failed to obtain any written permission from Baker’s people to use the music, or any of the videotape for that matter.
“Negotiations” led to my agreeing to let Jay use our footage (about 1 minute, they said) in return for screen credit for both myself and Burch as “additional video”. Sad to say, Burch was not given any credit and I was listed under “Thanks”, which came after “Special Thanks”, which was the very last category in the credits. So much for fame and fortune.
The film is being shown at the (unfortunately named) SIE Film Center at the Lowenstein Complex on Colfax. Screen 1 is a 55-seat box with a digital projector in the back. As the patrons began to assemble, I noticed a guy in the back row apparently setting up his laptop to record an illegal copy of the film. While I was contemplating letting management in on this creep’s intention, the manager came in and asked him to leave. No bootleg copies, for now at least.
As to the film itself, I have to give Jay Bulger a lot of credit for getting this thing done. He’s taken an unpleasant subject (Baker) and stitched together (with animation, stills, and bits of film) a decent story of his indecent life. At once arrogant and miserable, Baker is a world-class, self-centered jerk. Everybody agrees that his drumming was stellar, but no one likes him. Even at his now advanced age, he is unable to be gracious. His mistreatment of his 4 wives and various off-spring is pathetic. Especially sad is the testimony of his son Kofi Baker, who I met during our videotaping. Kofi is himself now a drummer, but he has not much positive to say about his Dad, who, having been paid $5 million for the 2005 reunion of Cream, had no money to share, even for expenses.
About halfway through the film, I began to ask myself who on earth would want to see this film. Drummers? Cream fans? Rock and roll historians? Maybe.
If I’m not mistaken, the film was bankrolled by one individual. Jay Bulger got a chance to learn filmmaking as writer, director and producer. And I must congratulate him for not pulling any punches. Ginger Baker, now broke again, got a chance to totter, at the end of the film, to one more session at the drums. Just barely.
Allowed YouTube video of Baker drumming in Parker.
Denver Post review, and SFGate review.