Anyone who’s into pop culture, comic books or podcasts will undoubtedly know of Kevin Smith, who’s endearing love of all thing films, TV and comic has sparked an impressive fandom and community. Premiering in the SXSW Film Festival’s Spotlight section, Clerk directed by Canadian independent film director and podcaster Malcolm Ingram, is a hugely entertaining and in-depth documentary on Smith’s personal life and expansive career.
Opening with a heartfelt tape Kevin recorded for his parents prior to heading to Vancouver Film School in 1992, Ingram takes a deep dive into his early life, complete with a number of interviews with his family and lifelong friends, including Scott Mosier, Jason Mewes and Brian O’Halloran. Beginning with a tour around his old town, Smith highlights key locations such as the Highland community centre and the Quick Stop convenience store, which went on to change his life forever. As Richard Linklater’s Slacker inspires Smith to film low-budget arthouse comedy Clerk, which went on to sweep Sundance film festival in 1994, whilst also sparking the beginnings of the fan favourite View Askewniverse.
Charting the subsequent highs and lows of Smith’s film career following the critical success of Clerks, Smith, Mosier and long-term collaborators such as Jason Lee, Walter Flanagan and Ben Affleck discuss the creative decisions and processes behind the next set of projects. Teen comedy Mallrats followed, along with romantic drama Chasing Amy and controversial religious comedy Dogma (which surprisingly led to Smith receiving three death threats). Smith’s rise to fame wasn’t without critical and box-office failure however, and Ingram doesn’t shy away from the lows of his filmography, including entries such as Yoga Hoser and Cop Out. Interviews with individuals who Kevin Smith inspired and touched are also included, such as Ghostbusters director Jason Reitman, who still has his Clerks ticket stub to this day, along with an emotional cameo from Marvel’s Stan Lee.
Along with giving us a glimpse into the making-of his film productions, we begin to see the Smith’s other forrays into podcasts, successful comic books and post-movie Q&As inspire a hugely loyal fan base. His welcoming personal website, message boards and merchandise first brought together the like minded community, while his fan festivals, talks and signings really propelled him to become the pop culture success he is today. Smith’s happy family life is suddenly shattered however, as Ingram doesn’t shy away from Smith’s brush with death back in 2018 as he recovered from a heart attack.
Featuring a fantastic mix of archival newspaper articles, photos and behind-the-scenes clips, combined with a star-studded collection of talking heads interviews, Ingram’s documentary is an extensive and well researched film. While serving as a fantastic accessible entry point to Kevin Smith’s career for those who may have missed some of his earlier works, Clerk really is an immersive experience for the fans. As a follower of his work myself, particularly the fun documentary series Comic Book Men, it was fun just to spend time in this world and seeing the impacts he’s had on the community, particularly the formation of View Askew Street Hockey League. It’s clearly not an objective evaluation of Smith’s filmography and creative ventures, considering Ingram and the majority of the interviews are with friends and family, but more of a fond summary.
Clerk is an entertaining and heartfelt celebration of Kevin Smith’s amazing career and the community he’s created. While not revealing anything profoundly new, this a heartwarming & star-studded doc with one particular special cameo which certainly moved me. Anyone for a View Askewniverse rewatch?