A Good Man Directed by: Bob Hercules, Gordon Quinn Cast: Bill T. Jones Running Time: 1 hr 25 mins Rating: NR Release Date: September 23, 2011 (Chicago)
PLOT: A documentary that dives into the process of revered choreographer Bill T. Jones as he tries to make a piece that will forever change the way people think about Abraham Lincoln.
WHO'S IT FOR? Those who are particularly interested in dance-theater will likely enjoy the chance to dive deep into one of the style's most popular minds. Even those with little experience or knowledge of dance-theater will at least be able to get something out of this unique character study.
Featuring remarkable footage of his earlier performances and the free-reign to let the man constantly speak for himself, A Good Man creates a very thorough picture of Bill T. Jones, the creator. Bill T. Jones the man, not as much.
A Good Man does not let us get very personal with its subject. We hardly see him when he's outside of the studio, and we don't understand any part of his life outside his work. We understand what he's thinking about, and what other people think of him. In lieu of showing personal events of him, A Good Man aptly considers his creative process as the gateway into the intimate parts of his soul. Sometimes it feels fitting, especially when he's creating/teaching moves from a purely inspired part of heart. But in other moments, it all simply feels up to interpretation.
On top of that, we are given plenty (if not too many) moments in which Jones talks about what's on his mind, and sometimes ruminates himself into a hole that only has "art" as its fallback exit. He's most interesting here when he's poignant - a scene in which he connects his Lincoln production to that of the Obama era to a whole crowd of affluent white people is fascinating.
Efforts by the filmmakers to find some interesting shades in Jones' palette of performers seem to come up dry. Even though we have dancers from all around the world, many of them with dynamic faces and appearances, they all seem to believe in the same thing, and offer the same type of perspective - working with Bill is tough, but it's an honor. When we finally see how Jones' Lincoln production reflects the history of the dancers, the background of Bill's dancers truly feels significant.
While sometimes the "art" of his work can be lost on audience members, A Good Man also stands as an interesting documentary about the assembling of a dance-theater production. Outside of what we see with Bill, such a construction has little emotion in its journey, but its still compelling to watch, as Bill says, "Nothing turn into something."
Whether they fully understand his "art" or not, a lot of people, of different "sophistication," (as he calls them) respect Bill T. Jones, and revere him as an essentially brilliant creative talent in the field of dance-theater. All lumped into this group certainly are the filmmakers of his documentary, A Good Man, who could even seem overprotective with their subject - their movie is hardly one with its own ideas. It feels more like another means of expression for Jones than an individual statement by filmmakers about an artist with much more provocative means.
Needless to say, I'm certainly sold on seeing a Bill T. Jones production now.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10