Raindance Film Festival 2020 – The Mystery of the Pink Flamingo

Getting back to my Raindance viewing after a few days off, the next film on my list is a documentary that immediately grabbed my interest. The Mystery of the Pink Flamingo follows an eccentric sound engineer, Rigo Pex, who begins to see pink flamingos everywhere and wants to get to the bottom of what it all means. Directed by Javier Polo, The Mystery of the Pink Flamingo is as vivid and fearless as the subject it seeks to discuss. Combining many mediums such as animation, art, music and film, the documentary is a culmination of how the pink flamingo became a symbol for those who wish to live freely. The pink flamingo is representative of kitsch and a cheapness that also belies a culture of bad taste and boundary pushing. What emerges from the film is how different people have taken figurative and literal inspiration from the flamingo and how this affects their life and shaped their identity. Just like the documentary’s interviewees, Pex begins to welcome the prospect of a new identity that opens new doors to professional and personal fulfillment.

The documentary itself subverts the traditional tropes. Dramatises itself with an ominous unseen narrator who questions Pex at various points, there are times when the lines are blurred between documentary and feature. Pex himself becomes a sort of fictionalised character as his journey reflects those found in feature films. Opening with a dream sequence in which Pex is pecked by a flamingo and is clearly bothered that the reoccurring presence of the animal in his life, so much so that he feels as though it is blocking him in some way. What his venture teaches him is that rather than blocking him, the pink flamingo is actually a door to discover more about its symbolic significance and what it means to people and ultimately to himself.

On his journey, Pex begins to switch his predominantly black wardrobe for more colourful attire and becomes happier in his outlook on life and in himself. The pink flamingo becomes an emblem for something more. As he records the sounds he encounters, he finds himself finding purpose for this sounds and mixes some together to create a piece that expresses his new identity. Featuring interviews with artists, musicians and filmmakers among other professions, The Mystery of the Pink Flamingo becomes a discussion piece on what it means to be kitsch and live an alternative lifestyle that refuses to conform to societal norms. Among my favourite interviews was one with the legendary John Waters. Known for his controversial filmography including the notorious 1972 film Pink Flamingos which features iconic drag queen, Divine, Waters explains his thought process and why it is important to express the bad taste to clash with the good taste that society favours. A brilliant takeaway from this discussion was that his passion to be controversial and in bad taste comes from his upbringing with parents who raised with him good taste. This upbringing provided him the rules that he would seek to break throughout his career.

What struck me through this film is how important sound is. A huge part of Pex’s initial personality is his passion for his work as a sound engineer. He records sounds from every street in his town and stores them systematically without knowing what purpose they will serve. As he travels around America, the sounds he records begin to merge and come together like a puzzle piece in Pex’s mind. By becoming more comfortable in how he presents himself and allowing himself to be pushed out of his comfort zone, we see his musical venture begin to take shape also. The second half of the film following the construction of an initial beat that grows into a musical piece played at the end that aligns with a sequence showcasing Pex’s journey to a world of colour and kitsch. The sounds of the journey making the documentary a sensory experience and creating a synesthesia effect.

Overall, The Mystery of the Pink Flamingo is a great look into how identity is an ongoing journey rather than something that is fully formed and stagnant. Using Pex as a way into this quirky lifestyle that looks at how the flamingo has been a literal and figurative inspiration to many throughout the decades allows the audience to believe in Pex’s evolution as he begins to shift in his outlook.

The Mystery of the Pink Flamingo is showing at Raindance Film Festival 2020.

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