Clapboard Jungle follows aspiring director and screenwriter Justin McConnell over five years as he aims to finally breakout in the independent film industry after years of zero budget films and dreams reaching a breaking point.

Director Justin McConnell’s journey is at the heart and soul of the film, it’s a deeply personal exploration of his own process and his own navigation through a world that at times he’s not even sure he can survive in. It’s raw, unfettered and truly lifts the curtain of the cinema business beyond Hollywood. At times you’re getting to see how the sausage is made in all of its unglamorous and shlocky glory: you feel the hope, the desperation and most of all the reality of life on the edge of the independent circuit. It’s a grind, but one fuelled with undeniable passion as much as perspiration, something that McConnell impressively wields with his openness as a man with a movie camera and dream.

The most impressive strength of the piece is the balance between the intimate and the wider experience presented through an astounding cast of talking heads including Guillermo Del Toro, Paul Schrader, George A Romero, and a whole cavalcade of producers, directors, actors and festival programmers, all willing to share from their experiences and paint an expressive and lived picture of the world McConnell wading through without bias (Del Toro’s comment on the industrial drive to create a ‘pipeline’ flow and the ironic connotations of an irrigation system is as elegant as hilarious in particular). This combination of insight from some of the most experienced and talented creative talents in the industry, alongside the drive of Justin’s own personal journey keeps the talking heads from feeling too dry and obvious, and his journey too overwrought in an insular perspective.

Is the film groundbreaking? No. Is it a formal revelation? No. But it’s utterly honest and willing to really take you behind the scenes and want to share something with you. There is nothing sensational, but there really is a heart and a sense of learning for both McConnell and the audience that makes it an extremely valuable and knowledgeable work, even if it’s rough around the edges in terms of it’s overall feel.

Clapboard Jungle is an honest and intimate exploration of the craft and dedication shared within the world of independent cinema, casting a critical eye over the industrial forces that complicate and constrain, but most of all celebrating the filmmaking community itself, a message that in this difficult time of COVID is as vital as it’s ever been.

Arrow Video Frightfest Digital Review: Clapboard Jungle
3.5Overall Score
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About The Author

Matthew Hammond is a full time cinephile, specializing in cult, art house and 1980s cinema. While film is his overwhelming passion, Matthew has been known to enjoy comic books, Sherlock Holmes stories and a good film related T-shirt. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments: