The Life of Bob Hawk
“Film Hawk” is based on the life of Bob Hawk who for more than 40 years has championed emerging filmmakers. His triumphs include Kevin Smith (CLERKS) and Ed Burns (THE BROTHERS MCMULLEN) as well as such Queer Cinema icons as Rob Epstein (THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK), Barbara Hammer (NITRATE KISSES), and Kimberly Reed (PRODIGAL SONS). This documentary traces Hawk’s early years as a young gay child of a Methodist minister to his current career as a consultant on some of the most influential independent films of our time. Even though Hawk has produced many films and has of late directed a short film, he is best known as a film consultant. Kevin Smith’s heartfelt reminiscences give us the emotional backbone of the doc. Their relationship is very special, but plenty of other filmmakers also attest to Hawk, the man.
JJ Garvine and Tai Parquet directed this documentary but Hawk set up the boundaries as to where they could go. Hawk is also unusually candid discussing his past struggles with suicidal depression. He remains an elusive figure who is not drawn into the spotlight.
The film opens with an affecting scene of Kevin Smith recalling Hawk’s crucial role in the biggest make-or-break moment in his career. Smith remembers the disappointment of bringing “Clerks” to the Independent Feature Film Market where it played to 12 people, one of whom was Hawk, who considered it as the “undiscovered gem of the marketplace,” and brought it to the attention of influential tastemakers like Village Voice critic Amy Taubin and others. Here is where the film’s history began.
When Hawk was still living in San Francisco in the ’70s,he saw a five-hour cut of Epstein’s “Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives” and offered pages of handwritten notes that helped whittle the landmark film down to a little over two hours. When Epstein made “The Times of Harvey Milk” in 1984, Hawk correctly predicted that it would win the Oscar for best documentary feature. Hawk would later move closer his East Coast home and continue to consult with unproven filmmakers. However, I was disappointed that the film never gets close enough to Hawk.
Hawk at 80 years old has been a consultant Bob Hawk has been a fixture the Sundance Film Festival, and the indie community, for decades. He is as always an enthusiastic figure and a champion and mentor to many. This documentary is bit rough-around-the-edges portrait of an instrumental figure who still struggles to make ends meet as he devotes time and expertise to nurture creativity among those he cares about. We see his early influences on queer cinema before hitting the depths of depression and nearly taking his own life in the Nineties. Since then, Hawk has given up on fame and fortune in order to pursue projects that matter to him and his efforts have paid off big time for many of his friends and clients.
One thing that is very evident as you watch this documentary is how emotional people get when they speak about Bob. The overall narrative arc throughout this movie is that Robert Hawk gives a voice to those that haven’t had the opportunity, funds, or presence in the mainstream world.