Funny, heartwarming and at times a bit sad, Radioman is an intimate profile of Radioman, an iconic figure on all of New York’s bigger film sets. The formerly homeless movie buff cycles around New York, stopping in to help out, act as an extra and occasionally even have a speaking part in countless films.
The doc is full of revealing interviews with Radioman himself, as well as several clips of celebrities (everyone from Tom Hanks to Robin Williams) talking about what an established figure Radioman is on set. Tilda Swinton says a few nice words about the importance of community, and the role Radio plays in the large family of film professionals that circle around each other and work in New York. The interview subjects certainly seem to have a genuine warmth and affection for Radio, but the film never fully addresses whether they’re just tolerating him (and just being polite to the filmmakers) or whether they really like the guy. It’s a hard line to draw between “friendly acquaintance” and “real friend”, and sometimes it seems like the line may be blurred in Radio’s mind, if not in the celebs’.
Radioman’s honesty and willingness to let the filmmakers into every crevasse of his life gives the film its emotional resonance, but at times he’s reluctant to discuss personal episodes from his past, and at these moments he becomes slippery, evasive, and often really funny. The tone of the film is lighthearted, but one wonders if this is in part due to the fact that it really was very difficult to get Radioman to talk at any length about his family, his years spent on the streets, or his other past troubles.
On the whole, a very charming and entertaining film and a view into the life of a guy you’ve probably seen a hundred times on the big screen without realizing it – in the backgrounds & on the sidelines of some of Hollywood’s biggest productions.
Radioman screens on Monday April 30, 2012, Wednesday May 2, 2012 and Saturday May 5, 2012. Check the Hot Docs website for more info.