GFF 2022: My Old School
Alan Cumming lip-syncs to the voice of notorious Bearsden Academy student Brandon Lee in Jono McLeod's fun and moving documentary My Old School
Jono McLeod's wildly entertaining documentary My Old School has the feeling of an uproarious class reunion. Three decades have passed since Bearsden Academy’s 5C class – who count the director among their number – were embroiled in the jaw-dropping shenanigans at the heart of the film, but when these talking heads get going, the memories, the old jokes and the deep-buried heartbreak all come flooding back.
The year is 1993, and a new, slightly strange kid named Brandon Lee has just arrived at this well-heeled suburb to the northwest of Glasgow, and is greeted with much suspicion from his classmates. It’s the setup for countless high school movies, from Heathers to Clueless, but there’s more to 5C’s reluctance to embrace the misfit newbie than simple clique culture.
Saying more would ruin the delicious twists and turns in McLeod’s film, although anyone around in Scotland in the mid-90s will know some of what’s to follow. What might surprise people familiar with the story, however, is just what a Zelig-like figure the oddball Lee becomes at Bearsden Academy, taking some of the school outcasts under his wing and shaping the music tastes of others (Lee convinced one of his classmates to swap his 2 Unlimited tapes for Joy Division and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry records). This seemingly prodigious student becomes equally popular with the teachers and lands the lead in the school’s production of South Pacific.
Lee gives his side of the story too, but only in audio form. Alan Cumming, who was once tapped to play Lee in a feature film, puts a face to his pre-recorded testimony. A comic book style animation modelled on 90s fave Daria and a voice cast that includes Clare Grogan and Lulu help bring the conflicting stories about Lee to life. By the end of this playful, Rashomon-style investigation of Lee’s story from everyone’s angle, there are still plenty of unanswered questions and holes to unpick. The film wryly reveals high school memories to be a curious thing: slippery, subjective and perhaps a little rose-tinted, given how warmly 5C recall their encounter with Lee.
My Old School had its European premiere at Glasgow Film Festival and will be released later in 2022 by Dogwoof