Shut Up Little Man – Day 9 FFF 2011


Who'd Have Thought Their Nightly Fights Would Go Viral

What would YOU do if you moved into a new apartment and the two inebriated middle aged men next door would suddenly begin screaming at each other at any time of the day or night?

This happened to these two filmmakers in the mid 80’s. At first, they tried to angrily confront the neighbors. But, with a human skull in the window, the drunk neighbor threatened to kill. So the filmmakers decided to audiotape the fight. This worked perfectly, for a few minutes, until the neighbor noticed the microphone being held by a boom just outside the window.

The neighbor walked to the microphone–and continued the screaming fight by speaking directly into the microphone! During the fight, the neighbor would constantly shout, “Shut Up Little Man!”

After accumulating over 40 hours of audiotape from these nightly fights, the filmmakers began to make copies of some of the more fascinating moments of conflict. This was long before the internet and You Tube. These were cassette tapes.

And they did the 80’s equivalent of “going viral.” Within 10 years, there was a one act play, a full length play, CDs, three different movie deals (they all fell through), radio programs and several different comic books all based on–or containing the actual recordings of–the Shut Up Little Man audio casette tapes.

Then came this documentary, where the filmmakers tracked down the surviving principles from these next door screamfests.

The end result is a fascinating documentary that skillfully uncovers all the salient details of the original scuffles and then viral explosion of this phenomenon. It’s a story that explores the dynamics of dysfunctional, alcoholic living, the legalities of surreptitious audiotaping, questions of copyright law and all the dynamics of a viral encounter.

Well paced, the movie skillfully unwraps the intricate layers of this fascinating story. Part detective story, party voyeur, part legal, this documentary has a little of everything.

It’s even funny.

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