My Father and the Man in Black
“Before there was Johnny and June, there was Johnny and Saul.” Saul Holiff (1925-2005) was the long suffering manager to country rock legend Johnny Cash. To the media and to Cash, Saul was a level-headed perfectionist. But to his family, Holiff was distant and withdrawn. In a powerful and intriguing documentary, Saul’s son Jonathan Holiff pieces together a portrait of the father he never truly knew.
Though large parts of the documentary are critical of Holiff’s parental failures, it is ultimately a labour of love. The documentary is written, directed, produced and narrated by Jonathan Holiff, featuring soundbites from his mother Barbara, and starring his cousin Gary Holiff as Saul in re-enacted scenes. This is just one of the many qualities that make this documentary so unique. The sense of this film as a family project lends a very distinctive, accessible voice. Jonathan’s openness about his motivations and his honesty about his tempestuous relationship with Saul evokes the feeling that he is engaging you in one-on-one conversation.
The film also has a rather unique artistic approach. Jonathan employs re-enactments and voiceovers with a mix of real footage and old family and press photographs that are subtly animated to bring Saul and Cash to life. Jonathan forgoes the standard talking-head shots completely, and in this way we can be utterly engrossed in the depths of the investigation, without the film cutting to modern day interviews.
This is a truly touching and innovative piece of cinema. Through My Father and the Man in Black Jonathan Holiff invites us along on his quest to find closure following his father’s suicide in 2005. It is a captivating and intimate journey through which we come to know the man behind “the man in black”.
My Father and the Man in Black is released nationwide on 2nd August 2013.
Watch the trailer for My Father and the Man in Black here.