Slim & I – Film Review

It’s hard to imagine life in Australia without there being some kind of memory of Slim Dusty stuck in your head.

For me it is laying in bed in Latrobe, Tasmania, as a child hearing my grandfather get ready for work while listening to Slim Dusty coming from his old school wireless. Time would go on and my music tastes would get heavier but the music of Slim remains in my life thanks to soundtracks of some of my favourite Australian films – Dirty Deeds and Wolf Creek 2.

I’ll admit though, it has taken me watching Kriv Stenders’ (Red Dog) brand new documentary Slim & I to truly understand and appreciate on exactly why Slim Dusty is considered an Australian cultural icon. Learning facts such as him recording 106 albums in his lifetime, being the first Australian to have a worldwide #1 hit and amassing a massive 45 Golden Guitar Awards quickly makes you realise why Kriv Stenders felt that Slim Dusty’s story needed to be told to a younger generation.

As we have seen in Stenders’ films over the years, he likes to be creative and the same goes with what he has done with Slim & I. Sure, Stenders uses archival footage and emotional interviews, but the power of Slim & I comes through with some creative re-enactments and getting modern day music icons like Paul Kelly and Kasey Chambers to not only talk about their favourite Slim Dusty tracks, but to perform them as well.

What I loved about this documentary was the storytelling that Stenders uses to strengthen the facts that he presents in this film. As the title of the documentary suggests, this is as much the story of Slim’s wife, singer-songwriter Joy McKean, as it is about Slim. The interviews with McKean in Slim & I are some its most beautiful moments. Hearing her story about how she bravely overcame major health issues to become a performer and one of the first female radio presenters in Australia adds a strong element to the film that a lot of filmmakers probably would have otherwise chosen to ignore.

So often documentaries about musicians do very little but glorify the music of the said artist. With Slim & I though, Stenders dives much deeper than that. This documentary tells the love story of how Slim and Joy became a couple with the result creating some of the most beautiful song lyrics that the music industry has ever seen. It is also the story of Slim Dusty’s work influencing many modern musicians today and how the music of one man launched country and western music in Australia.

Not only will this documentary educate you on the evolution of country and western music in Australia, Slim Dusty and Joy McKean’s individual careers and wonderful relationship, but Slim & I will also make you fall in love with the music.

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