• JustCuriosity15 March 2015
    A Very Peculiar Story told with Grace and Humor
    Finders Keepers was warmly received at the SXSW Film Festival. It is one of those stories which prove that truth is almost always much stranger than fiction. There are many true stories – like this one – which no one would believe if you wrote them as fiction.

    In this bizarre tale of how John Wood's amputated leg is accidentally sold at auction to Shannon Whisnant who has the screwball idea of making money by displaying it as some sort of macabre tourist attraction. The film actually uses this strange incident as an opportunity to explore the severely dysfunctional lives of both men and their families. Wood is a drug addict still dealing with the grief of losing his father in the same plane crash that cost him his leg. Whisnant appears to be some sort of unhappy narcissist who sees the purchase of an amputated leg as his ticket to the fame and fortune that has long eluded him thus far in his rather mundane life

    The film makers take this material and while gently mocking the men's eccentricities also allows them to share their complicated stories. The film may even serve as a partial catharsis for them. Finders Keepers is hilarious. The filmmakers keep the story moving in a highly entertaining manner. Despite the entertainment component the emotions of the protagonists and their families are very real and their pain about the problems in their lives is also very real. Really the leg they are battling for becomes a strange metaphor for the aspects of themselves that are missing in both their lives. Finders Keepers walks the line between comedy and tragedy and does so delightfully. I had no idea what to expect when I walked into this film and I think I got a lot more than I expected.
  • mail-441-38780831 July 2015
    Watch it in the theatre
    I can't fault this really stunning documentary.

    When the director stumbled across the numerous eccentric characters who made up this film, I'm sure he couldn't have believed his luck.

    However instead of ridiculing the characters, he sensitively lets them tell their own stories in their own way.

    Make no mistake - the end result will make you laugh out loud, which is why you should watch it in a crowd. However much of the humour comes from the editing rather than cheap shots at the characters' expense, and you will find yourself respecting both them and the director.

    You'll also spend much of the movie thinking you are watching a mockumentary, since most of the stars are outstandingly telegenic, and the story - well it's too bizarre to be fiction.

    The soundtrack is superb, as are the editing, the direction, the way the clips are woven into a story with a history and an ending, the attention to detail, and even the camera work.

    Happy to give up a couple of hours of my time to this movie, and anything else by the same director.
  • Sergeant_Tibbs1 October 2015
    Fits firmly in the Coen brothers mould of tragic ambitious fools.
    Finders Keepers is the best comedy of tragic idiots that the Coen brothers never had the chance to make. It's certainly not the most important documentary of the year, and it might not end up being the best, but it'll most likely be the most entertaining. Though even while it makes you laugh from the farcical nature of the situation, there's a thoughtful social commentary that studies many harsh aspects of the human condition.

    In a horrific plane crash that took his father's life, John Wood's leg was amputated, and in a very unorthodox request John asked to keep his limb to shred it to the bone and use it for a memorial for his father. John went through the long process of preserving it and keeping it safe in a grill only to lose that grill with the leg inside as he got behind storage locker payments where he kept both.

    Amateur entrepreneur and all-round hustler Shannon Whisnant happened to purchase that storage locker and refused to give the leg back to John despite polite and reasonable requests. With all the attention, he sees it as an opportunity to make his millions using it as a tourist attraction and even invites John on the deal. When an agreement is not settled, it's taken to be one of the most unique legal battles the courts have ever seen. Can one really buy someone else's body parts?

    Most everyone else in the documentary finds the situation bafflingly bizarre including John, and it's hilarious, though interesting to see what the foot means to these various people. Any reaction you have is reflected in a ideally sourced clip from the media. If it weren't for solid proof it happened, you'd think it was a perfectly scripted mockumentary. Much of the men's conflict is shown on television, both in candid media appearances and on televised courtrooms. In the world of Finders Keepers – television caused, provoked and then solves their problems.

    While John has his own human interest story, the source of the bizarre conflict is from Shannon's lifetime ambition to be an everyday television personality, despite how absolutely unlikely it is. There's a deep undercurrent of bittersweetness in how the dreams of fame and fortune can cloud someone and drive them to such madness, even though it's so utterly far from their grasp. The genius of the film is that it studies Shannon eventually tasting it, and ironically through the film itself, and it rings painfully true in the absurdity of those ambitions that we can all admit to at some times.

    The film certainly does paint Shannon as the bad guy but John is no saint. He's a drug addict and throughout most of the film's chronology of events, it's pointed out that he's high, something that tears his family apart. They're both such efficiently funny characters in their outlandish statements that they don't have to try, but they're also deeply poignant in their human flaws. The direction from J. Clay Tweel and Bryan Carberry compliments both sides, balancing our sympathies.

    However, the filmmakers don't catch up to date with our subjects until about an hour into the film when the drama is seemingly resolved. Fortunately, it has more personal reconciliation to explore and that's where the film finds its most compelling moments as the people we've been following find some hope beyond the foot. The Coens would not have offered such satisfying resolutions so it's a treat to have this stranger than fiction story in this tightly constructed documentary form that breezes by with equal substance.


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  • jdesando29 September 2015
    You'll never see a wittier documentary.
    Warning: Spoilers
    "I've always been famous. It's just now people are finding me." Shannon Whisnat

    Bizarre is as bizarre does. Finders Keepers is an authentic good-old boy documentary set in North Carolina about rednecks John Wood and Shannon Whisnat, the former storing his amputated leg in a smoker grille in a storage unit. The latter buys the smoker at auction and wants to keep it to peddle his fame while John wants it back because it is his connection to his dad.

    The challenge with the material is for educated audiences not to feel superior to the Crackers on the edge of insanity struggling with their demons, John alcoholism and Shannon fame. Shannon's plight is the more pathetic of the two, an overweight dreamer who pursues reality-show fame as if it were his destiny.

    As we watch family members--sisters, mothers, wives-- themselves redneck real, there seems no way out of their unsophistication, yet there is. John laments the furor over the leg--he goes on a Judge show with Shannon to fight legally for possession--and turns his energy to sobriety. Shannon sees he's the butt of jokes on the reality circuit and while disconsolate seems to be entering a sober phase of his life.

    Whether or not the filmmakers manipulate to make the subjects denser than they are is arguable, but they sure have some witty observations: About John, Shannon says, "He was born with a silver crack pipe in his mouth." There's a cinema verite feel to the proceedings, recognition that even these down-home characters have arcs leading to self-awareness. Too many fiction movies don't do that.
  • gavin694220 July 2016
    Interesting Case Study
    Shannon Whisnant purchased a grill at an auction. Inside the grill was an amputated leg. What follows is a story centered on the enterprising Whisnant and John Wood, the man whose leg wound up in the grill due to an odd chain of events.

    This story, by itself, is quite interesting because of the events and people involved. Shannon Whisnant is clearly crazy, with delusions of grandeur. He does not seem stupid, but clearly feels he has been slighted by the world and should be someone important. John Wood, on the other hand, is generally portrayed as the victim, but he has his own problems and from what we see in the film, he seems to have more or less thrown away a golden ticket.

    A little bit deeper, there are two issues I would love to have seen more of: one, why did the doctors let Wood keep his leg? I feel like there are some biohazard issues with letting people keep rotting flesh, and the film never really got into that.

    And two, I wish the issue would have gone through actual legal channels. There are some excellent legal questions involved: does the leg belong to the person who found it, just as money in a mattress would? Or is it clearly something different because it is human remains -- can you actually own part of another man? This could have been fascinating to see argued in court, but that never happens.
  • caspian197826 December 2015
    More than just a Foot
    On the surface, Finders Keepers is an odd and funny look into the lives of two interesting characters from North Carolina who fight over the ownership of a severed foot /leg. Although entertaining, this documentary is much more than just an out of the ordinary situation. The deeper we get into the background of the story and its characters, we witness a struggle for fame, forgiveness and family. Issues of drug addiction and childhood trauma appear as we see a deeper story that deals with regrets and poor decisions that have created a major journey that both characters travel through. An uplifting ending helps bring closure where it is much needed. Still, the odd scenario which Finders Keepers showcase, may not find a larger audience that this documentary deserves.
  • jake_fantom26 July 2015
    A remarkable film
    Warning: Spoilers
    This is documentary filmmaking at its best, filled with hilarity, surprising twists and turns, eccentric characters, and poignant revelations. The film is brilliantly constructed from bits of news footage, beautifully photographed interviews, and quirky bits of animation that highlight the timeline of events. It's actually one of the best edited films of any kind that I have ever seen. Add to that a quirky soundtrack that's as unique as the real-life characters themselves, plus a story so bizarre it has to be witnessed to be believed — and you've got one absolutely remarkable film. It is best to come to this film without any preconceptions or expectations, so I am not even touching on elements of the story. This movie is a gem.
  • jonyen30 January 2016
    One foot in the grave
    There seems to be a lot of documentaries made these days, and even some movies look like doccos. The premise of Finders Keepers is odd, but the tagline/blurb of this film tells little about what it is: a weird human interest/recovery story from NC/SC. Unlike a lot of documentaries based around simple folk, the makers really draw you into responding emotionally to the characters in this one, whether it be annoyance, revulsion or admiration.

    Finders Keepers has the right mix of humour, TV/news footage and one on one face camera/narrative dialogue to tell an engaging story of the media, greed, missed opportunities and redemption. The documentary makers keep the necessary distance from the subjects to allow the story to unfold naturally.

    It is worth watching and talking about afterwards, especially if you are interested in embalmed feet.
  • a_chinn14 July 2017
    Amputated leg as metaphorical key to unlock dreams
    Fascinating documentary about a small time entrepreneur/hustler buying a grill at an unclaimed property storage unit auction and finding an amateurishly mummified human foot inside. Things get complicated when the owner of the foot, a drug addict, rich kid, perennial screw up, wants his foot back. Shannon Whisnant, the new owner of the foot, wants to parlay the foot into fame and fortune, and has no interest in returning the foot. John Wood, the man to whom the foot belongs, just wants his foot back. What unfolds is a crazy journey for both men that is impossible to predict what directions it goes and where it ultimately ends up. On the surface, this is a terrifically entertaining tale of two colorful sad sacks, but the film is more than that. The severed limb that serves as the McGuffin of the film becomes a symbol of sorts to both men as the key to unlocking their dreams. In the end, the foot has nothing to do with where the two end up and it's up to the individuals what they do wit their lives.
  • woobooridesagain26 April 2016
    The Story Behind A Media Circus
    We often see on internet news websites little bits and snips of "weird news", things that seem too bizarre, too inexplicable to be real. The story of John Wood and Shannon Whisnant is one of these stories. Through this documentary, we get a rare glimpse into the lives of the people behind the strange and altogether unlikely series of events that brought two very different men from Carolina together in a battle over, of all things, an amputated leg.

    John Wood lost his leg in a fatal plane crash that saw the father he loved, Tom, die. Already a troubled man, the trauma of the crash sent him over the edge, with drug abuse and alienation from his family causing him to enter into a downward spiral. Eventually, everything he owned ended up in a storage unit. Desperate for something to have to reconcile with the event, he took claim of his own amputated limb, and eventually preserved it through a bit of backwoods mummification. It was among the possessions in the shed that was eventually sold to a wheeling-dealing haggler named Shannon Whisnant. Discovering the foot in an old grill, Shannon claimed ownership of the foot after it was discovered to be a medically amputated limb. John wanted it back. The ensuing media attention to the story would change the lives of both men, though to the public at large, it was just another story of Southern-fried strangeness and backwoods idiocy.

    Starting with the story of the leg itself, the strange set of circumstances which saw it amputated from its owner and its backwoods method of mummification, the documentary then transitions into the story of the battle over the severed leg, before examining the lives of two men who are, at their core, damaged in more ways than just physical scars and amputated appendages. John, a recovering addict who desperately sought the approval and love of his parents. Shannon, physically abused by his father, like many people in the age of reality television and internet broadcasting desperately seeks fame and recognition.

    Although it is an easy trap for many to focus solely on the lurid details of the leg and the battle for it that ensued shortly thereafter, the documentary succeeds in telling a story that you aren't likely to see on reality TV or the internet, examining the lives of both men in an ultimately sympathetic way. About the only fault that can be said for the film is that, while the story is interesting, the documentary becomes thoroughly average. Neither terrible nor exemplary, it succeeds at telling its story from a new and refreshing angle, but the tale it tells is simply not one that is overwhelmingly engrossing. It's competent, and it does an excellent job of taking a look at its subjects in a way that no one prior had even bothered to attempt. But there is only so much story you can get out of the struggle over a severed foot. That and perhaps it is a little too lenient in its examination of the exploitation of these two men by a news and entertainment media that was clearly interested only in the bloody details.
  • MovieHoliks22 March 2016
    More Than What You Expected...
    Warning: Spoilers
    Maybe it's because I am in Ohio, and this took place in North Carolina, but I don't recall hearing anything about this public feud over a leg found in a smoker that was sold off in a storage unit auction. There are many different types of documentaries -- historical, biographical, ones that take on social, environmental or political issues, but soon into this film, I ascertained it to be I guess a comedic doc-?? Well, a bit farther into it, I realized there is more to this than I thought. In fact, I would call this a documentary about healing, recovering from addiction, and making amends. Definitely worth checking out sometime...