Robert Crawford, better known as Bob, is a small, greying, soft-spoken yet chatty character whose penchant for the accordion and ubiquitous presence around Lake Highlands and East Dallas made him quite famous even before some insightful and innovative local filmmakers made a movie about him. (Read more about them and him here in our 2009 story, “About Bob“.)
The movie premiered in 2010 and enjoyed success at several film festivals before finally becoming available on DVD.
Now the movie is available to rent on Google play for just $3.99. No reason not to see it now. Below, I have reposted our 2010 write-up on the movie. Also, I recently saw Bob hanging in Deep Ellum and he seems happy and well.
Originally posted May 2011
“His Name is Bob” premiered last week to a sold out crowd at the 40th USA Film Festival at the Dallas Angelika—the response was overwhelming, says Sebastian Lee, one of the movie makers. There were resounding laughs and a standing ovation from the 300 or so audience members. I missed the premiere, but Lee loaned me a copy of the DVD, which I watched over the weekend (I saw the first chapter a year ago when I wrote a story about the making of the movie).
Back when I interviewed Bob and the makers of “His Name is Bob” (Lee, Heather Lee and Lisa Johnson), I expressed my eagerness to see the completed movie. I knew it would be interesting: I’d see people and places I know, and I guess I thought it would be really good for a low budget locally produced documentary. And that’s what I continued to think through about half the movie. But by the end I was thinking that “His Name is Bob” is a wonderful movie. Period.
It’s a gritty punch-to-the-gut life lesson that forces some serious soul searching.
Though I’m not particularly religious, there are things I learned through religion that I wholly believe—like that we know God through our relationships with others. And “others” doesn’t mean just those who make us feel good. In fact, some of the most important learning opportunities come from relationships that make us uncomfortable. And Bob, initially, makes just about everyone uncomfortable.
“His Name is Bob” introduces us to a gross and annoying little man named Robert Crawford, whom everyone knows as Bob. It’s easy to despise Bob because the people talking about him, those closest to him in many cases, don’t seem to like him. (Close ups of Bob’s unkempt toenails, ratty underwear and tales of unimaginable flatulence seal the deal).
So, just when you think you can’t take any more Bob, the moviemakers slowly pull back the curtain, revealing Bob’s heartbreaking history through a trip to his hometown, a tour of the defunct institution for the “feeble minded” where he lived many years after his abusive mom abandoned him, and interviews with relatives and old family acquaintances.
The scene that whacked me over the head happens somewhere along the road trip back from New Hampshire. The camera points at a breathtaking northeastern sky filled with sunbeams bursting forth from pillowy clouds. The focus shifts and zooms and pans so fast that my mind reeled with rules from a college video production class and I think, “sloppy camerawork.” This isn’t right, I think, but it is gorgeous.
That’s when it hits me. The messiness splashed about the movie is a metaphor for the Bobs of the world. No, make that a metaphor for all humans. Though some can make it look that way, we don’t come in neat packages. This isn’t a perfectly packaged production (hell, the makers told me they didn’t even own a camera when they first started shooting), but if it were, it might not work as well. People like Bob (and our reaction to them) often scare us. Instinctively we distance from them and cozy up to the crowd that is poking fun at them, because that feels like the safe place to be.
But if we dare to quiet our preconceived notions and take a closer look, Bob’s madness is a door to new perceptions that, in the end, could quite possibly bring us closer to a spiritual awakening of sorts. In order to experience the mind-blowing beauty that can come from tapping into your own soul, you have to be willing to face some ugliness.
As soon as you get an opportunity, you should see this movie, especially if you live in East Dallas or Lake Highlands, because if you live there, chances are that you know Bob. Once you see this, you are guaranteed to look at him and all the other unkempt vagabonds (maybe asking you for money, a ride, or an ear) in a totally different light.
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