10 Amazing Videos That Reveal The Lives Of Incredibly Unique Individuals
The world is full of unusual and unique people. Unfortunately for us, most of them never meet filmmakers interested in telling their stories. However, every so often, someone with a camera stumbles across a truly extraordinary person, and when that happens, the results are pretty awesome. In this list, we’re looking at 10 short documentaries that capture some really crazy and colorful characters, people who make this planet an incredibly interesting place.
10The Reinvention Of Normal
Movies are filled with wacky inventors—from Fred MacMurray in The Absent-Minded Professor to Rick Moranis in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids—but none of those fictional innovators are quite as quirky as the real-life Dominic Wilcox. This creative Londoner spends his time building gadgets and gizmos that look like they were stolen from Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Take the brilliant smoothie-making soccer ball for example. Fill it up with fruit and yogurt, kick it around a bit, and voila, a delicious beverage!
In The Reinvention of Normal, filmmaker Liam Saint-Pierre gives us a brief glimpse into an imaginarium full of toothbrush maracas and eccentric headgear. Taking his father’s advice to “go straight off the wall and do things,” Dominic has dedicated himself to solving some pretty unusual problems. How can he hear the sound of nature in London? Easy. Build a bird-listening device. How can he avoid burning himself on his tea? Simple. Create a teacup-cooling fan. It’s all incredibly kooky but also wonderfully whimsical. And in case you’re wondering what that Faberge egg on wheels is supposed to be, it’s a “stained glass driverless sleeper car of the future.” You know you want one.
9From Suicidal To Scaling Walls: India’s Monkey King
It’s probably safe to say that monkeys are the greatest climbers on the planet. It’s also probably safe to say that Jyothi Raj comes in at number two. There’s no rock, no wall, no precipice he can’t scale. And when Raj sets his mind on a mountain, he doesn’t take along any gear. This man doesn’t need any ropes or carabiners. When he feels like reaching a summit, all Raj needs are his feet and his hands.
Known as India’s Monkey King, Raj studies the way primates move, and he copies their methods when climbing. The man is so skilled that he can grasp onto the smallest toehold, the tiniest crack, and flip himself around like Spider-Man. However, this short Vocativ doc delves a bit deeper into Raj’s back story, and in a very candid interview, Jyothi explains how climbing saved his life.
In fact, Raj believes his superpowers will grant him a form of immortality. “You see,” he explains, “a climber never dies. His body may not live, but his name and his record will live forever.”
8Randy Santel: Pro Eater
Randy Santel has one goal in life: eat as much food as fast as possible. This 28-year-old competitive eater from Missouri, at last count, has completed 253 food challenges in 22 states and eight countries.
When the folks from Munchies caught up with Randy, the big guy was touring the UK and Ireland, gobbling up any hamburger or hot dog foolish enough to cross his path. In this short documentary, we follow Randy as he tackles calorie-packed obstacles like the triple chili challenge and the Wicked Waffle challenge, but even though it’s only 18 minutes long, this little video is a lot more poignant than your regular episode of Man vs. Food.
Sure, we see Santel scarf down an entire pizza, and yes, we learn about his power of positive thinking mentality, but the most interesting parts of Randy Santel focus on Randy as a human being. We learn that this bodybuilder is a fan of Katy Perry music and relates to Sylvester Stallone’s character in Over the Top. Most importantly, we get a peek at the lonely life of a competitive eater.
Randy is something of a loner, still living at home and very much single. “There’s a lot of things that I’ve sacrificed,” he tells Munchies, “to get anywhere I need to go, do anything I need to do. There can’t be any type of serious relationship involved.” But even though he spends a lot of his time alone and broke, Randy doesn’t regret his choices. He truly enjoys what he does and seems to inspire his group of dedicated fans. As Randy puts it near the end of the film, he’d rather sleep in a gutter than give up on his dreams.
7El Pintor Ocular
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That’s especially true for Leandro Granato, although his nose is involved, too. This Argentinean artist has pioneered a new art form, a weird technique he calls “ocular painting” or “eye painting.” Granato snorts paint and squirts the liquid out of his tear ducts onto a canvas. And of course, you can’t really get the full impact of his “teardrop” style by looking at photos. You need to see the man in action.
In El Pintor Ocular, director Ariel Fiminela follows Granato as he travels to Germany to exhibit some of his paintings. Along the way, we witness the artist as he squirts and splatters plenty of red and yellow paint. According to Granato, our nasolacrimal ducts are connected to our nasal pathways, and he happens to have an especially strong duct. In addition to crying on canvases, Granato spends quite a bit of time philosophizing about the nature of art.
“To me,” he explains, “art is being okay with yourself, being able to do what you like, to create your artworks though one person may like and another may not.” And evidently, quite a few people find his artwork disturbing. However, Granato takes it all in stride. In fact, that’s one of the perks of his job. The man enjoys provoking emotions in other people, both positive and negative. As Granato puts it, art was made to generate emotions.
In case you’re wondering, Granato’s pigments are made completely from plants, so he’s convinced they won’t hurt his body. And if you’re interested in seeing the artist squirt some more paint out of his eyes, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.
6Hong Kong Tattoo Legend
For over 50 years, Jimmy Ho has been carrying on the family tradition of slinging ink. Jimmy is one of Hong Kong’s premier tattoo artists and has worked on everyone from British sailors to Triad gangsters. In this Vice documentary, we glance at a living legend and take a short tour of the fascinating history of tattoos in China.
Jimmy opened his shop in the ‘60s, but he’s following his father’s footsteps. His dad was the first tattoo artist in Hong Kong. And before Jimmy turned 14, he was already hard at work. In fact, Jimmy lived in his father’s shop to escape his abusive stepmother and would often ply his trade after hours when Western sailors showed up, hoping this teen could add a little color to their biceps. And Jimmy always delivered.
Over the years, Jimmy has come to specialize in fish, eagles, and dragons, and as his fame has spread, he’s taken on apprentices from Japan and the UK. In an interview with one of his disciples, we learn that while Jimmy is quite the taskmaster, the man certainly knows his trade and has earned quite a bit of respect in the tattoo world.
Of course, Mr. Ho is getting older, and his eyesight isn’t what it used to be, nor are his fingers. “I won’t be doing this for long,” he says, “because my hands won’t be as steady.” But even when Jimmy finally sets down his gun, his legacy will live on in thousands of tigers and Chinese dragons, etched into the skin of fans around the globe.
5Slomo: The Man Who Skated Right Off The Grid
Once upon a time, John Kitchin had the world in the palm of his hand. A wealthy doctor from North Carolina, Kitchin was an expert in neurology and psychiatry. He owned flashy cars, exotic animals, and an impressive mansion. He was good at his job, respected by his peers, and was the epitome of American success. He was also kind of miserable. He was so dissatisfied with his cynical existence that he considered suicide.
Then suddenly, Kitchin’s vision began to fade. Faces looked blurry, and he had trouble keeping up at work. Struggling with his eyesight, Kitchin suddenly remembered a chance encounter with an old man who’d advised him to “Do what you want to.” Inspired, Kitchin walked away from his medical practice, bought a pair of roller blades, and spent his days skating across San Diego.
In Slomo: The Man Who Skated Right Off the Grid, director John Izenberg follows Kitchin as he winds his way down the Pacific Beach Boardwalk—in slow motion. Often lifting one foot in the air like an Olympic ice skater, Kitchen rolls along at glacial speed, waving to and high-fiving bystanders. So why is he moving so slowly? According to Kitchin, his Zen-like acceleration is a form of mediation, a way to experience “a kind of divinity.” He’s even got a few scientific pointers to back his claims.
Sure, he isn’t raking in the bucks like he once did, but this local legend is finally at peace.
His name was “Wild” Bill. He was 52 with a gloriously unkempt beard, a man who knew how to handle himself in a fight. Once, Bill had a promising career in music, but something went wrong along the way. Instead of becoming a star, Bill ended up on a bike, pedaling his way through major American cities, delivering parcels and packages.
Somehow, Bill wound up in Williamsburg, working for a restaurant called Best Pizza, and that’s where he met up with the filmmakers from No Weather Productions. The result was Delivery, a beautiful portrait of a local legend, a deliveryman who’s been around the block a few times, both literally and metaphorically.
In this short documentary, Bill explains what it’s like shuttling pizzas in a world where “half of the drivers genuinely don’t see me and the other half are trying to get me.” Sure, it’s a rough job, and he’s suffered his fair share of injuries, but despite the dangers, Bill actually enjoys his job.
Bill died in February 2015, leaving his community a slightly less colorful place. However, if you’re interested in learning more about this wild guy, be sure to watch this further interview by Eater where Bill elaborates on some of his wildest adventures.
Maluji is the world’s largest river island, and it sits in the middle of the Brahmaputra, coincidentally one of the largest rivers in India. Unfortunately for Maluji, the Brahmaputra has a bad habit of flooding annually. Every time the waters rise, huge chunks of land just disintegrate, leaving behind barren sandbars. Scientists fear that in just a few years, the entire island might disappear.
Jadav Payeng is doing everything in his power to fight the floodwaters. Since 1979, this Maluji man has been slowly planting a forest in the middle of a desolate wasteland, hoping the trees will stabilize the soil and provide shelter for local animals. Working completely alone, Payeng has spent most of his life burying seeds in the sand and protecting his forest from anyone who might want to tear it down. Thanks to his hard work, the forest is now larger than Central Park and is home to an amazing array of wildlife.
In this documentary, directed by William Douglas McMaster and narrated by Jitu Kalita (the journalist who made Payeng famous), we learn how the “Forest Man” plans to save his island from destruction and witness him tend to his modern-day Garden of Eden. And even though his plans to have the island declared as a UNESCO site haven’t panned out yet, Payeng hasn’t given up. If anything, he’s more determined than ever to plant as many trees as possible, for his neighbors, for the animals, and for the island itself.
2Jazzbo—The One Man Band
When we first meet Jazzbo, he’s sporting a bowler derby, a red clown nose, and a big white beard. Most importantly, he’s playing “The Blue Danube” on a gizmo straight out of Mary Poppins.
Jazzbo is perhaps the greatest one-man band on Earth. Perhaps he’s not the most skilled, musically speaking, but what he lacks in talent he makes up for in panache. The man is loaded down with a drum, a washboard, bells, cymbals, and a cantankerous toy monkey that occasionally plays percussion. Jazzbo is also skilled at playing the harmonica, Bob Dylan–style, and he even takes a stab at the trumpet and conch shell now and again.
While the notes are never quite right, the man certainly enjoys what he’s doing. Whether or not you enjoy his particular style of music, you’ve got to admit the man is living his dream. How many people want to become a jazz-playing clown and actually accomplish their goal? With plenty of hats and truckloads of charisma, Jazzbo is one of the most enjoyable instrumentalists you’ll ever meet (or watch a short documentary about).
1The Record Breaker
Everybody has a hobby. Some people collect stamps. Others take photos. Ashrita Furman sets world records. Since 1979, this native of Queens, New York, has set over 500 records in everything from “long-distance skipping” to “slicing apples with a samurai sword.” In fact, describing Mr. Furman’s penchant for juggling upside down and balancing lawn mowers on his chin as a hobby might not be entirely accurate. Perhaps “passion” is a better word.
In The Record Breaker, filmmaker Brian McGinn follows Furman as he wears the world’s heaviest shoes, catches malt balls with his mouth, and trains for his ultimate goal: climbing Machu Picchu on stilts.
The man turns everyday chores into a race against the clock. But Ashrita isn’t driven by some incredibly competitive nature. Instead, record-setting is his way toward happiness and enlightenment.
“You know, I get fulfillment every time I do a record,” Furman explains, “even when I’m doing a stupid record.” And it’s true. Watching Furman spin a giant hula hoop or balance a baseball bat on his finger, you get the sense this guy is possibly the happiest man in the world.