VOD film review: Keyboard Fantasies
James R | On 10, Mar 2022
Director: Posy Dixon
Cast: Glenn Copeland, Nick Dourado, Carlie Howell, Bianca Palmer, Jeremy Costello, Kurt Inder
There’s something hugely moving about watching someone find themselves. Keyboard Fantasies documents that process twice over for Glenn Copeland, a pioneering musician whose work went undiscovered for years. Copeland was born in 1944 but it was only in 2015 that he actually found any kind of success – when a record shop owner in Japan contacted him to see if he had any spare copies of Keyboard Fantasies. The album in question was recorded by Copeland back in 1986 on cassette – with only a couple of hundred self-pressed tapes in existence.
Not since Searching for Sugarman has there been such a rewarding account of a talent getting belated recognition, and part of the fun of the film is just watching him talk about that whole bizarre journey. With his melodic, enchanting voice, he’s an engaging, happy presence, even as he reflects on his rollercoaster life, which saw him feel like an outsider while studying classical music in the 1960s, when he still presented as Beverly and found a relationship with a woman not well received by his parents.
All this feels like water under the bridge, which is testament to how comfortable and accepted Copeland feels as we watch him walk out on stage to a cheering crowd. With him now in his 70s, debut director Posy Dixon gives us both a potted biopic and a tour movie in one, managing to blend the enormous social change that’s key to Copeland’s story with the untapped wit and wisdom that fuels his beautifully creative music. When we see him in action, all that comes together joyously on stage, right down to the cheerful and enthusiastic young musicians playing alongside him.
The result is a celebration of an unsung Black musician, a fascinating portrait of an unknown artist and a winning tale of finding one’s place in the world. Wrapped up in a slender 75 minutes, it’s a rare music documentary that leaves you wanting more.