SIFF Face the Music 2018 Preview: Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story

Janice Headley

Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story
(United Kingdom | 2018 | 100 minutes | d: Steve Sullivan)

Festival Screenings:
MONDAY, MAY 28 9:00 PM | SIFF Cinema Egyptian
THURSDAY, MAY 31 4:00 PM | SIFF Cinema Uptown
SATURDAY, JUNE 2 8:00 PM | SIFF Cinema Uptown

Back in 2014, KEXP co-presented the film Frank as part of the "Face the Music" series at SIFF, a fictionalized version of real-life UK artist/comedian Chris Sievey. I was so enthralled, I went home after that screening and fell down a Google wormhole, which you can read about here.

And, apparently, I wasn't the only one intrigued by the story behind Frank, because this year, SIFF is screening Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story, a documentary about Sievey, aka "Frank Sidebottom." Director Steve Sullivan reveals the much darker story behind the papier-mâché mask, portraying characteristics left out of actor Michael Fassbender's portrayal: drug and alcohol addiction, infidelity, and mounting financial problems brought the true story to a somber end. (Sievey then passed away from cancer in 2010.)

Using both archival footage and talking-head interviews, we learn more about his earlier attempts at a pop career, sans mask. Growing up as a huge fan of The Beatles, he even made his way to Apple Records, convincing employees to let him record a demo. (Ringo Starr even popped into a session.) When that didn't pan out, he formed The Freshies, who had a brief novelty hit with "I’m in Love With the Girl On the Manchester Virgin Megastore Check-out Desk." But by 1980, the town became consumed with the darker sound of bands like Joy Division, and "The Freshies" seemed kinda stale. (Sorry.)

Once Sievey created the "Sidebottom" persona, he catapulted to cult status, something like Andy Kaufman meets Sacha Baron Cohen's "Ali G." In the early '90s, he hosted the children's TV show Frank Sidebottom’s Fantastic Shed Show (his version of Paul Reuben's Pee-Wee's Playhouse. Through interviews with his ex-wife and children, his former bandmates, and fellow UK comedians, we see that while the man was certainly flawed, he was truly beloved.

KEXP is a proud co-sponsor of the "Face the Music" series at the 2018 Seattle International Film Festival, running May 17 - June 10 in various theatres across the area. Follow along with all our coverage throughout the festival here.

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