SXSW FILM FESTIVAL
SXSW Review: Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry
by Ken Evans
March 13, 2008
Not only did I already want to see this but my wife actually threatened to kill me if I didn't. Although I don't have any tattoos myself, I married someone that has a deep appreciation and respect for the art. Because of that I have learned a lot about the history and world of tattooing and otherwise might not have seen Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry. This is defiantly one documentary that I'm glad I didn't miss.
Director Erich Weiss spent two years traveling, doing interviews, and gathering information on the life of Norman "Sailor Jerry" Collins. Considered the pioneer of modern day tattooing Sailor Jerry is its most recognizable face. Not only is Weiss able to give us a glimpse into Sailor Jerry's life and character but also shows us a clear picture of how World War II influenced his life and work while living in Hawaii.
The majority of the film is spent doing interviews with famous tattoo artists who knew Sailor Jerry personally. Artists like Michael Malone, Zeke Owen and Don Ed Hardy, who I actually met at the screening, were all able to talk about Sailor Jerry and their stories during the time that they new him.
What made this film great were the amazing personalities that each of the men interviewed had. Not only did I feel like I got a true sense of who Sailor Jerry was but I also got to know these other artists and was able to connect with them. Between interviews and history lessons director Weiss added quotes from correspondences that Hardy had had with Sailor Jerry. These quotes were typed out on screen and narrated which I thought added to the overall experience of the documentary.
Besides the sexual references dealing mostly with prostitution in Hawaii during World War II, I would recommend this film to just about anyone. I thoroughly enjoyed it and think anyone, regardless of having tattoos, would find it very interesting and enjoyable. Another must see documentary from SXSW.