Friday, December 12, 2014

I Am Santa Claus (A Shitmas Post by John Squires aka "Freddy in Space"!)



In my head is an unwritten list of documentaries I'd like to see, with the subjects ranging from horror convention cosplayers to those old people who call into QVC. Near the top of that same list, for many years, was a dream documentary about department store Santas, which has now been crossed off thanks to filmmaker Tommy Avallone.



'Whose lap is your child really sitting on?' is the simple question Avallone set out to answer with I Am Santa Claus, released onto DVD last month and now available for instant streaming on Netflix. And the answer to that question, it turns out, is quite beautiful, the documentary pulling back the proverbial wrapping paper and exposing the surprisingly magical men that embody the Christmas spirit.


Running 90 minutes long, I Am Santa Claus begins just about one year prior to Christmas 2012, centering on five different individuals who don the red suit every December. We've got Santa Russell, who lives in his daughter's basement and is unemployed the majority of the year; Santa Frank, a tattooed biker who makes a living designing fire sprinklers; and Santa Bob, a real estate agent who's about as professional as professional Santas get.

And then there's Santa Jim, who is far and away the most controversial figure in the documentary. A homosexual who occasionally poses for pictures as a mostly-nude Santa Claus and attends annual 'Bear' gatherings, Jim is one of the true delights of the film, a kind-hearted man whose eyes well up with tears when he recounts his favorite Santa memories. Aside from the fact that his Mrs. Claus is a Mr., Jim is Santa Claus through and through, a jolly old soul who just wants to spread holiday cheer.


But the highlight of I Am Santa Claus, for me at least, is pro-wrestler-turned-Santa Mick 'Mankind' Foley. Whereas the other subjects in the doc have been at the Santa game for a long time, Mick starts off the film having never rocked a white beard, and his portion of the documentary tracks his evolution from ordinary man to mythical icon. As a lifelong wrestling fan, I'm admittedly a little biased, but it is Mick's journey that I found to be most fascinating.


Contrary to what his wrestling persona may suggest, Foley is a guy who lives and breathes Christmas every day of the year, and his love of the holiday, as well as his insight into that love, is the glue that holds the documentary together. Though the subjects are vastly different individuals on the surface, it's their reasons for wanting to embody the image of Santa that unites them, the whole film coming to a head with a scene in the Foley household that will make you believe in the magic they've dedicated themselves to keeping alive.

Towards the end of I Am Santa Claus, Mick surprises his young sons with a late-night visit from Santa Frank, who they seem to genuinely believe is the real Claus. Though his kids are perhaps a bit too old to still believe in magical beings, at least according to unwritten societal rules, their sheer delight upon seeing 'Santa' is pure movie magic of the highest order. If he dies a happy man, Foley says, it will be because he's thinking back on that shared experience. And that's what it's all about.
More than anything, I Am Santa Claus is an inspiring look at the magic of Christmas, serving as a reminder that Santa is not any one person, but rather a feeling in one's heart. No matter who they are in their everyday lives, the men in the documentary are out not just to spread that feeling to others but also to regain it in their own hearts, and remind themselves what it felt like to wake up on Christmas morning and let a little magic filter out the reality of life. And that's a beautiful thing.
I Am Santa Claus is guaranteed to restore a little bit of your faith in humanity, and inject a whole lot of that Christmas spirit directly into your soul. So if your holiday fuel gauge is feeling low this year, or you need a reminder of what Christmas is truly about, pour yourself a tall glass of egg nog, queue it up on Netflix and get ready to feel all warm and gushy inside.


I Am Santa Claus is guaranteed to restore a little bit of your faith in humanity, and inject a whole lot of that Christmas spirit directly into your soul. So if your holiday fuel gauge is feeling low this year, or you need a reminder of what Christmas is truly about, pour yourself a tall glass of egg nog, queue it up on Netflix and get ready to feel all warm and gushy inside.
And hey. If you're just interested in seeing Santa get drunk and wrestle with a mean hangover, I Am Santa Claus has got you covered.

- John Squires
Freddy In Space (Facebook) , (Twitter) , and (Instagram)

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