Sometimes treasures lurk in the most unlikeliest of places. If you were to walk past one particular council block in Brighton you wouldn’t bat an eyelid. Yet stepping into a flat in this mundane redbrick building leads us towards one Drako Oho Zahar Zahar, the subject of this beguiling documentary. Observed by his filmmaker friend Amies over a few years, this is a fascinating document of a man whose colourful life had trespassed into various artists, dancers and vagrants lives.
Drako was born Tony Banwell but took on the stage name in his twenties. He was recruited as a dancer in London in his youth and embarked on a rather reckless existence amongst the 60’s and 70’s gay crowd. A kind of socialite, he was painted by Dali (which he recounts at every opportunity) and hung out with artists like Warhol. He suffered two near fatal accidents, one a motorcycle accident and the other a car crash, which left him in a long coma. It took him almost a decade to recover, and changed his personality to a substantial degree.
Although this colourful past irreparably defines his character, the documentary focuses on his final years in the cramped Brighton flat. The flat is somewhat of a character in itself, an ode to Drako’s memories and philosophies. It is literally crammed with pictures, postcards, books that Drako has amassed over the years. Pornographic pictures of erect penises vie for space amongst handwritten religious quotes, a veritable jungle of delights. Due to Drako’s accidents, he now suffers severe amnesia and uses notes hanging from the ceilings to remember day to day details, much like in Christopher Nolan’s Memento.
Drako himself is charm personified, an English eccentric with an endearing self deprecation. Covered in tattoos, bald and prone to wearing ‘vibrant’ attire, his occasional forays into the local butchers make for a humorous event. As he struggles to form cohesive thought patterns his anecdotes become recycled, but this is oddly endearing as well. It is clear that Drako is one of a kind, yet director Amies paints a loving portrait of his friend. Although it is strange that such a flamboyant figure has ended up in such a mundane setting, you get the feeling that Brighton itself suits him perfectly; a place that welcomes the slightly unusual figures and cultivates them.
It is an extremely intimate film, based mostly in Drako’s cramped flat. Straight away the audience understands that Amies and Drako have a strong relationship, as Amies asks him chummy questions and queries his general well being. The film is unusual in that Amies has a clear investment in Drako and often acts almost as a carer for him. The line between the subject and the film maker becomes extremely blurred as Drako’s health deteriorates. Is Amies exploiting Drako for his own gain? Perhaps, but Drako, always the exhibitionist, would have wanted it that way. A funny, eccentric, moving documentary.