Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Geekumentary: Candyman, The David Klein Story

Candyman: The David Klein Story tells the story of David Klein, inventor of Jelly Belly jellybeans, and also the man who said, "In life, you only need to be a genius for 15 seconds." One of the more quotable quotes I've heard in a long time.

I don't want to give away everything about the story arc, but you know it's not going to be rainbows and unicorns when David kicks off by saying that he wishes he'd never invented Jelly Belly, because it ruined his life. Ouch.

In fact, I've come across a lot of similar stories of late. A book called The Billion Dollar Monopoly Swindle, for one, and, really, The Social Network movie I finally got around to seeing last weekend. They all tell tales set in the murky waters of intellectual property rights, and our legal system. They're not all the same circumstances, but the theme of somebody having an idea, and then having someone else try to take it away are prevalent in all three. I believe Def Leppard said it best when they said, "Everybody wants a piece of the action." Combine that with an open, trusting, and well-meaning individual, all too often things turn sour. If you've invented something, the truth is that these are dangerous personality traits to have, and that may just be reality, but it is still SAD.

As someone who is both these things in spades, I find that troubling. I'm also a realist, and I get that human nature is what it is. As long as money makes the world go around, people are going to be looking for ways to get more, and ultimately, we are self-serving organisms. I'm not going to rant on our legal system, but it does make it very easy for outcomes that just don't feel "right" to transpire on the back of technicality and ignorance of legal nuance.

Back on the topic of the film, it's obvious from my reaction that the main character is very likable. David Klein is one of those people who lives for making other people happy. His son muses that he is addicted to doing so, and I think that's probably true, in the same way that people who go to the gym sometimes get an endorphine high off working out. It also seems that his main regret may not have been the lost revenue, but the lost recognition, that Joe Public, even the ones who LOVE Jelly Belly beans (I'm one of them) don't know him as the inventor.

And that's where one of the strengths of independent documentary shines through. Maybe the mainstream public won't know who created Jelly Belly, but now the story is there, and people will find it. Some people will know.

On a technical level, the story flow and content are great, and they do an admirable job of not making anyone out as a pure villain, which must have been hard to resist, all things considered. Documentary is supposed to present the facts and let you decide (as opposed to the Michael Moore films, for example, which he has specifically stated himself are NOT documentaries). Candyman also finds a way of ending on a high note, though I can't really put my finger on how they do it exactly.

I give it very high marks as a documentary, and it's one I would and will watch again. That's not always true, even of the really good ones, so it's worth mentioning here. It also made me want to go get some jellybeans.* :) I actually felt guilty enough to check with David Klein on whether or not he was cool with that reaction, and it is not really surprising that both he and his son are. They have nothing against the product, and acknowledge that for now at least, they are still the best jellybeans on the market.

The film is available in Indiepixfilms.com, with multiple purchase options - physical version, download, or on-demand "rental." Any fans of indie documentary will rejoice at having so many options; most of the time if I find an indie doc that looks interesting, buying a physical copy has always been the only choice. I happen to like owning physical copies, but this is the digital age, and I expect I'm no longer in the majority there. :)

* Pear is my favorite flavor, though once a long time ago, I had some knock-off versions in cranberry, and that was an awesome flavor too. We also had a LOT of fun at a poker night when we secretly introduced the Harry Potter flavors to our friends. Grass and pepper are actually interesting, but booger... nasty!