Sundance 2015: Finders Keepers Maintains a Brilliant Balance of Comedy and Tragedy

By  · Published on January 25th, 2015

Sundance Film Festival

Clay Tweel is a name that should be known to any documentary fan. After serving as an associate producer on Seth Gordon’s The King of Kong, he went on to direct his first feature, the surprisingly sharp teen-magician film Make Believe, which is better than its conventional competition-doc surface indicates, and then he co-directed last year’s riveting exploration of the 3D printer market, Print the Legend, which in a way is also a competition doc only with very high, entrepreneurial stakes. For the most part, those two are dissimilar animals, though together they’d hinted that Tweel could maybe do no wrong with clean, non-complex subject matter of any sort. He has a talent for delivering reality in an entertaining yet not sensationalistic way.

His latest, co-directed with Bryan Carberry (a multitasked intern on Make Believe) and produced by Gordon, is called Finders Keepers, and it’s his closest to the line of sensational exploitation. It’s therefore the most reminiscent of The King of Kong, albeit with less of a shared sense of delineated good guys and bad guys than his past two features have. This new doc involves a pair who are as antagonistic as true human beings can get. On one side is John Wood, whose amputated leg wound up for auction because it was being kept inside of an old grill in his storage unit, and he’d failed to pay the rent. Shannon Whisnant is the man who acquired the grill and the limb inside, and he saw the latter as a business opportunity. But he didn’t get far into his plan of charging locals for a glimpse at the find before Wood showed up to reclaim his property, and a long and heated and mediated custody battle ensued.