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Reviews / Screenplay: A blessing and a curse – how it feels to be the ‘real’ James Bond

A CROWD gathered at Mareel to watch a dynamic documentary into the lives of people who live with the same name as globally renowned spy James Bond.

Introducing The Other Fellow by Australian writer and director Matthew Bauer, festival co-curator Mark Kermode said: “Some of the stories in it you’ll find genuinely astonishing, uplifting, and surprising.”

He wasn’t wrong. The documentary showed how various people in the present day were affected by sharing their name with fictional British spy 007, some by choice and others through necessity.

From the New York theatre director who hates it in his day-to-day life but monopolises on his fame by participating in advert campaigns and TV shows, to the Swedish super-fan who tries to emulate Bond in everything he does (including eating 007 themed pizza).

A self-proclaimed Bond fan himself, Bauer first got the idea on Facebook. In the early days of the social media networking site, he was part of a group who all shared the name Matthew Bauer and wondered how it must feel to share a name with one of the most famous men on the planet.

However, Facebook doesn’t allow people to create profiles under the name ‘James Bond’ Bauer explained during the post-documentary Q&A session. So, he had to search for profiles under aliases and similar names.

The documentary tackles issues surrounding the Bond name that these men have lived with their entire lives and offers a glance into modern day masculinity.

The Other Fellow by writer and director Matthew Bauer.

In 80 minutes, we travel worldwide and meet two James Bonds from the same city in America, before jumping across to Sweden, and visiting other Bonds in New York, and England.

Most of the Bonds hold disdain for their namesake, remarking that ‘they have heard every joke possible’ about the suave and sophisticated spy. Some struggle with living up to the hyper-masculine, womanising, energy that surrounds the character – especially the two Bonds who are gay.

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Others recount stories of being pulled over by the police and having altercations as the police officer refuses to believe their name, with James Bond Jr from South Bend getting charged with 60 days in jail for simply stating his own name.

There is a light and comedic tone for the first 40 minutes, cutting through the lives of these men around the world. But every Bond in the film has their own active story, with James Bond Jr ending up in jail on a murder charge which caused issues for another James Bond in South Bend, and Swedish Bond super-fan using his infamy to try and find his long-lost father.

The documentary also explores the life of ornithologist James Bond who wrote Birds of the West Indies AKA the ‘real’ James Bond.

Author Ian Fleming owned the book while living in Jamaica and liked the name of the author, so admits he ‘stole’ it and used it.

Correspondence between Fleming and Bond’s wife Mary is shown in which she initially complains about the usage of the name (and the fame it brought). Fleming’s response suggests Bond name a ‘particularly horrible’ bird after Fleming as retribution.

The tone takes a drastic shift in the second half. We meet a woman in England who changed her and her son’s names to hide from her abusive ex-husband. In a clever move, she opts to hide in plain sight and changed her sons name to ‘James Bond’.

In the Q&A, Bauer explained the son was actually the first real James Bond he spoke to when conducting his research. He asked to speak to the mother, explaining: “It turned out she had a more compelling story to tell than I first realised. She took everything that’s a pain for the other Bonds and turned it into a positive.”

While researching he spoke to around 150-200 James Bonds, with a small selection making it into the film.

Almost all the Bonds stated the name was both ‘a blessing and a curse’, as everyone remembers when they met ‘James Bond’. The audience was left with the idea that having a famous name is not all it’s cracked up to be – even though there can be positives.

For those of us with more ‘plain’ names, perhaps it truly is better to fade into the background.

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