Filmmaker Justin Schein originally set out to make a standard biographical documentary about former Yippie activist, associate of Abbie Hoffman and former LA Weekly editor Mayer Vishner. But in the middle of shooting, Vishner made it clear he had a different plan. The film ends with his last political act, Vishner’s exit from this world: The increasingly depressed, aging alcoholic intends to kill himself. With this fascinating and sometimes polarizing twist, Schein is caught in an ethical stalemate with Vishner. Schein’s dilemma becomes the film’s new narrative as he goes from documentarian to friend to one of Vishner’s last few willing caretakers, weary of every role, ultimately making him complicit in the death of his subject. In between, there are moments of the old Vishner, the anarchist wunderkind with stories from his earlier days in the neighborhood, unyielding ideals and insight on his movement and the Occupy movement which emerged during the making of the film. Neither Vishner nor Schein are quite able to weave Vishner’s eccentric contributions to history into the final, cohesive narrative he wishes to leave behind. Instead they raise larger questions about the right to end your own story.
Winner of the Audience Award at DOC NYC Festival 2015.
Director Justin Schein, subjects Michael Ventura, Judy Gumbo and Andrew Hoffman in person in San Francisco.