Saturday, January 07, 2006
See Bingo! The Documentary. Offering all the fascination of a top "Roadside America" attraction, this little gem of a documentary -- independently directed, shot, and edited by John Jeffcoat in 1999, and now available on DVD -- may lure viewers in with kitsch curiosity, but ultimately delivers a humorous and often somber expose of the challenges posed by an aging population, gambling addiction, and loneliness. After providing a brief and informative history of the game (which includes an interview with Bingo inventor, Ed Lowe's granddaughter), Jeffcoat proceeds to effectively introduce us to the subculture of characters and organizations that fuels Bingo (from welfare recipients and recovering alcoholics, to drag queens and the Catholic church itself). The film opens with an amazing statistic: more people attend Bingo halls every year than movie theaters, rock concerts and bowling alleys combined. Bingo is a six billion dollar industry! But the sad fact is, it is often funded by people who can't afford to play. An overbearing loneliness, the allure of pseudo-community, and the hope of winning a jackpot (the film points out), draws players in over and over again. Jeffcoat traveled throughout the U.S., Europe (and even onto a Bingo cruise ship) to document the activities of these rabid Bingo disciples and the reasons they play. While Jeffcoat's film may not rank among the legendary entries of the documentary genre, it certainly merits viewing (perhaps more than once). For more information on this film, go to http://www.strangelife.com/bingodoc/bingoframe.html.