if you've ever seen the work and had questions about its purpose or meaning, this film should clarify it pretty well.
i wouldn't call this a documentary about peter beard as much as it is a advertisement for his work. never once do they attempt to question the work. he tells us several times how he went to yale, name drops those who he's been around and books that he's read, and shows himself with important people and in exotic places with "hot" models. about the only thing that makes the film partially worth while and semi-document is watching him put drawing and paint on the photographs.
along the way through this film what becomes abundantly clear is his willingness to exploit everyone and everything around him. while his nonchalant attitude with people and his ability to mingle with high society as easily as african tribes people makes him seem likable and admirable, his careless use of these people and indifference to them as individuals is disconcerting. to the extreme; in one scene he uses a woman as a tripod to photograph someone else. of course if you've seen any of his fashion oriented images you'd probably already expect that. his thoughtless combinations of images and subject is not the journalistic memoir he likes to position them as being. quite simply its self grandiose masturbation.
his work, while entertaining, is as important as any hollywood big-budget action film. i'm sure it makes him a lot of money but its worthless material.
i have to say that i wanted better of him. i first became aware of beard's work by accidentally walking into his gallery in NY. it was enticing. an abundance of work wildly collected together in a sort've 3D creative journal. each piece a refection of the whole. as a purely creative spew of imagery, i enjoyed it. but i also couldn't help but to feel like something was wrong about it all. there didn't seem to be a purpose to it. it was a bit like reading someones diary of what they thought day by day, but not being able to really understand the picture of what they were talking about. random stuff.
there is also a number of scenes here that show how he has the tribes people paint on and around the photographs. sometimes relatively small pieces with little work, sometimes a lot of work, sometimes huge pieces. nothing is said however about how these people are compensated for the work. the work itself carries his name and his name only, its sold as his work, and he gets all the glory of it. yet he talks about how the work is special because of the work that these people do to it makes it more authentic.
when you see the scenes of him photographing models with the "backdrop" of tribes people things start to get ugly. someone off camera (likely the filmmaker) actually asks him if he "feels like (he is) exploiting these people?". his response says it all; he essentially says he doesn't care.
if i wanted to like and understand what he was trying to get at with his work, this film makes it clear that there is nothing to like. i guess however i do have to admit that because the film does exactly that, it is an accurate account...a document...of him. i just don't like it, and don't appreciate his attitude.