Wednesday, 25 March 2020

BFI FLARE 2020 - KEYBOARD FANTASIES: THE BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND STORY review

Best known for the 1986 album Keyboard Fantasies, Posy Dixon's documentary charts Glenn-Copeland's re-emergence as an artist after his definitive album was re-discovered by collectors in the last decade, leading to a new tour to a new generation of fans.


After going to Montreal to study music in the early 1960s, Glenn-Copeland soon found that being the only openly non hetero-normative person on campus was too big a barrier, and so after a run in with his parents and a close call with electro shock therapy, he fled the school to pursue a career as a musician, ending up in rural Canada. Releasing folk and jazz infused albums that were difficult to market, after a period of failures in releasing new material this lead to him self releasing an initial run of 200 cassette tapes of Keyboard Fantasies (recorded with the help of an Atari home computer) in the mid 1980s to little cultural appreciation. Flash forward 30 years and thanks to the collective power of music aficionados, Keyboard Fantasies is in demand across the globe and finally getting the respect it deserves.

I'll be honest that I wasn't familiar with Glenn-Copeland before this documentary, but it's a great introduction to his work in a similar vein to Searching For Sugarman, albeit with the artist upfront and centre in talking heads and live performances. The film is a compact 59 minutes long, but there's some fantastic performances peppered throughout from a recent tour, accompanied by the band Indigo Rising. The highlight of the documentary is seeing how these two generations of musicians, one in his mid 70s and the others in their early 20s, learn from each other and how they so easily blend together during the live shows. It's also incredibly moving to see how much fun Glenn-Copeland is having, playing for a much larger and also younger audience, engaged in the story he has to tell.

What's refreshing is that Glenn-Copeland's gender identity is treated as largely inconsequential for the majority of the film, only becoming a topic of discussion in the last 20 minutes, perhaps as his gender realisation happened after the release of Keyboard Fantasies and before its cultural re-appreciation occurred. It's interesting that director Posy Dixon didn't try to give this aspect of Glenn-Copeland's life a closer inspection for dramatic reasons, but from his own admission, despite growing up black and queer and then having the realisation that he was male later in life, due to his family life and quite possibly due to living in Canada (which from the tour footage seems like a joyous place to live), he didn't receive the same level of abuse that others did.

Capturing Glenn-Copeland's feelings that he has found his purpose, this is a touching documentary that offers a captivating story with a beautiful musical backdrop. Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story is now playing on the BFI Player as part of the #BFIFlareAtHome season.


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