“Socks on Fire” is a very highly pedigreed documentary winning the Tribeca 2020 Grand Jury Winner Award for Best Documentary. It played again at Tribeca 2021. It will be showing at select locations in the United States now but I await word how you can see it throughout the world. A wider distribution deal is being worked out. Once widely available I will update this posting with details
It showcases how imaginative and creative documentaries can be.
Bo McGuire is a gay man living in New York City who returns to his hometown Hokes Bluff in Alabama where domineering Aunt Sharon as executrix of his Nanny’s estate has turned into a ruthless and bitter woman intent on locking out her drag queen brother, Uncle John, from Nanny’s house where he had been living. Aunt Sharon even tries to lock him out of the house by changing the locks and is instrumental in having him arrested.
Although the stated goal of Bo McGuire is to document this bitter struggle his underlying intent is to discover his extended family and he does so through creative enactments, old VHS tapes and discussions with those who have influenced his life almost all who are women.
As Bo says at the beginning of the documentary as he burns socks on a clothesline, “What do you do with what the dead left behind? Do you leave with it or set it on fire?”. As far as I can see Aunt Sharon is burning many in her extended family with her greed and hatred of her brother John and as amongst family she has lost all credibility. I have some experience with a death of a family member where property seemed to walk out of the deceased’s house!
For Bo if there is anything he has set fire to is a voyage of self discovery. His narration is melodic if not poetical at times. If anything he has a sense of unflappable calm. His journey takes us down the path of self discovery, death, the importance of family, love, pride, sacrifice, greed, queerness and childhood trauma.
What turned Aunt Sharon into such a cold-hearted monster may be found in her strong affiliation with the church and the manipulation of her husband.
I do not know what documentaries “Socks on Fire” was competing with but this documentary is certainly a good one and winning the Tribeca award is remarkable for Bo McGuire who was the director of the film, his first feature film.