Finders Keepers

This was the official website for the 2015 documentary film, Finders Keepers written and directed by Bryan Carberry and Clay Tweel.
Content is from the site's archived pages and other sources including Rotten Tomatoes reviews.

 

A few years back, tabloids across the world were thrilled to report how the mummified leg of amputee John Wood was found in a barbecue grill purchased at an auction by flea marketer Shannon Whisnant. Naturally they were ecstatic to then report how Shannon subsequently sued John in a bizarre custody battle over the leg.

But a few things never made the papers: like how John had been keeping the leg as a painful memorial to his late father – or how Shannon had simply viewed the now-famous leg as a way out of a life of hardship.

Nor did the news mention how the ever-intensifying media frenzy, and an inexplicable chain of events sparked by the leg’s discovery, pushed John past the brink of addiction and very nearly to the grave, before ultimately offering him a second chance at life… and it was never known how the story really ended.

Set in rural North Carolina, Finders Keepers is an oftentimes hilarious, at turns tragic narrative that delves into the very real lives that created - and were forever changed by - the fantastical headlines.

 


 

 

 

RottenTomatoes
TOMATOMETER CRITCS 98%  |  AUDIENCE 72%

CRITICS REVIEWS

October 1, 2015
Colin Covert
Minneapolis Star Tribune Top Critic
Wild, weird battle over mummified leg propels documentary 'Finders Keepers'

 

If you’re in the mood for a tragicomic documentary, the startlingly original “Finders Keepers” fills the bill. It is a rambling real-life farce dealing with the legal, moral and personal clash of two men in North Carolina.

They enter a long-running dispute over property ownership. One of the men bought a collection of household belongings at a 2007 storage unit auction. The goods included an outdoor grill. When he opened the smoker the new owner discovered that it contained a mummified human leg. The limb’s former owner wanted it returned; after all, he walked on it for four decades. One thing leads to another.

Remember: This is nonfiction.

Directors Clay Tweel and Bryan Carberry have turned an unwarranted battle of wills over personal remains into a report on pigheaded life in America. It may well leave you curled up in the corner sobbing, while howling with laughter. It is a weird tale and they have nailed it.

The main characters are two middle-aged men, each disadvantaged in his own way. Amputee John Wood came from a prosperous family. He lost his left leg in 2004 while flying in their private plane with his father, who lost his life. Painkillers pushed Wood to addiction, which pushed him away from his mother, who cut him out of the family’s fortune. He intended to use his mummified appendage to build a graveyard shrine to his late father. But he didn’t pay the monthly charges at the storage locker, which brought Shannon Whisnant into the story.

Whisnant, a poor junk vendor with ambitions to be an entrepreneur, reality TV star and movie actor, saw owning Wood’s missing part as the key to fame and fortune. Add to that the fact that since childhood he disliked Wood, whom he considered an uppity snob, and Whisnant’s reasons for returning the AWOL piece shrunk further. “If you didn’t have your birthday party at John Wood’s house, then you were nobody,” Whisnant recalls. “I guess I’m a nobody.” Revenge! And his dreams of glory seemed to be coming true as the story of their offbeat battle begins to draw worldwide media attention.

The film is not just incredibly funny, it is unusually poignant, gut-wrenchingly sad and admirably observant of human nature. Whatever preconceptions we have about these indignant misfits at the opening, we view them with clearer eyes as the story progresses. Tweel and Carberry spell out everything with impressive enterprise, gathering up all the threads and building to an ending that is not the chaos you might have feared. Everyone seems to get just what they deserved.

I was pleased, and I think you will be, too. Please see it.

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AUDIENCE REVIEWS

**** Nir E
September30, 2016
An in-depth study of the struggle to find purpose and a severed leg
jasonsellers23 Jason S September 14, 2016
It's so strange you can't help but be swept up in its story.
Allison C July 9, 2016
Hilarious and unique. These regular people make for some of the best story telling you have ever heard.
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**** Raymond B
July 3, 2016
2 stars for a documentary about country folk and mummified lower leg.

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**** Josh A
June 19, 2016
Although some of its entertainment value comes from the bizarre story alone, it succeeds in telling it in an unbiased way, while also humanizing its subjects

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**** ½ Michael D
June 16, 2016
Fascinating documentary of two very unique individuals. Hard to watch the guy who found the leg in the BBQ he comes off looking like a white trash "entrepreneur." Crazy life situation with a want-to-be reality tv star and a drug addict. It was a bit like watching a jerry springer episode mixed with a judge show and sprinkled with a little Oprah.

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***** Peter W
May 19, 2016
Must see if you watch docs

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**** Tim G
May 16, 2016
A 30-second news segment setup on the surface that becomes an interesting and strangely compelling study of two individuals.

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**** seth c
May 8, 2016
Finder's Keepers is surprisingly touching and equal parts fascinating and funny.

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** ½ W. Jonathan
May 7, 2016
More like reality TV than a documentary, this odd "only in america" story is at least honest as it tells a story that doesn't really pace itself well enough to leave you anything but grossed out by the end.
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*** David J
May 7, 2016
"Finders Keepers" is an oddball, backwoods, too-crazy-to-be-untrue documentary about two rednecks who fight for custody over an embalmed amputated human leg, foot attached. What's crazier is how directors Carberry and Tweel find a bigger, deeper story in this... But, I must admit, I only ever found this story amusing on the surface. This documentary is definitely not for everyone, but it's likely to appeal to a niche audience... perhaps one that consists only of Shannon Whisnants.

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**** Lilth A
May 1, 2016
This is a documentary that is fascinating with rich, fascinating subjects, atmosphere, fantastic dialogue. I happened to catch it on Netflix last night after spending a long day at my vape shop here in Oregon. With the change in our marijuana laws, business has been booming. I spent part of the late afternoon looking for a new vape products wholesaler. My old wholesaler had been raising prices and I felt I needed a change. I fortunately found a new player in the wholesale vape distributor market, Rich Mountain Distribution. After speaking with one of their reps for over two hours, I made the switch. I'm looking forward to this new relationship. They have great prices and all the newest products. So I felt celebrating and ended up watching "Finders Keepers" while eating takeout sushi and drinking a delicious Sauvignon Blanc, since I didn't have any sake on hand. Oh, and the film was poignant, some what gut-wrenchingly sad and even funny. I have to say it did an admirable job of observing human nature with all its warts and flaws.

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**** Matt G
April 30, 2016
Much like the nearly perfect "King of Kong", "Finders Keepers" gives us a good-vs-evil documentary that plays like a fiction narrative, only with some more natural complexities in its people and story. It's a weird, hilarious, ethically interesting and oddly heartbreaking film about flailing manhood and rampant daddy-issues. Morbid yet completely sweet-natured.

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***** Kim M
 April 27, 2016
This is a damn near perfect documentary. Funny, tragic, and thoroughly entertaining.

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***** Freeson W
April 19, 2016
It's not the idea, but the execution. While the subject matter is silly and ridiculous, Carberry and Tweel are able to extract and distill such a human story. The dichotomy makes it that much more enjoyable.

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 Super Reviewer
**** John B
 March 29, 2016
A strange tale about two individuals from the fringes of society who debate ownership over a severed leg. The two are so unbelievable that they just breathe life into one of the strangest documentaries that I have come across.

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From rogerebert.com

Documentary

Rated R for language

82 minutes

  |  Nick Allen

September 25, 2015   |  

“Finders Keepers” is the odyssey of a rogue amputated leg, as found in a grill that was left for months in an abandoned storage locker. After its discovery, two men from Maiden, North Carolina fought for custody of it. John Wood—small, sunny-eyed and low-key—was the biological owner of the leg; it was removed from his body after a plane crash, and months later, after his own ways of trying to preserve it (as a memorial for his father who died in that crash) he ditched the leg in that infamous smoker. However, Shannon Whisnant, towering and with a melodic drawl, was the one who technically bought the grill, and the leg that came with it; he used the public’s curiosity about the event, the grill, and the foot to become a bit of a local celebrity. (In pure poetry, Shannon has a bum left leg, the same side as the amputated limb). The two took their odd but straight-faced quarrel to international media, eventually leaving the foot’s fate up to an appearance on reality TV court show “Judge Mathis.” 

Needless to say, this is a story that tells itself. If some documentary filmmakers are like gold miners, scouring to find a phenomenal nonfictional story within heaps and heaps of less-interesting ones, “Finders Keepers” is that piece of gold which directors Bryan Carberry and J. Clay Tweel were lucky to find before anyone else did. This is a story that comes with rich, fascinating subjects, atmosphere, fantastic dialogue, (“He thought he was gonna be, y’know, the next Billy Bob Thornton!”) insatiable costume design, and a bizarre chain of events, all waiting for a documentarian’s vision (as is often the case, fiction film could never do this justice). At one time, this was the type of pursuit that led to Errol Morris’ “Gates of Heaven.” Now, in the spirit of that albeit untouchable film we have “Finders Keepers,” a fantastic story that touches upon all-American notions of celebrity, redemption, family, justice, class, meme culture—all which came together with a kooky news segment.  

This Sundance 2015 selection and winner of “Best Comedy” at the 2015 Traverse City Film Festival is a ridiculous story indeed, as John’s mother Peg will state herself, or the grin on his brother-in-law Tom will nudge, as he shares his talking head offerings like he were about to finish telling a joke. But “Finders Keepers” succeeds with a staggering amount of empathy when its narrative focuses on more than a prized foot, and centers on two men experiencing life phenomenons bigger than them. The film invests a lot of time in talking head reflections of John's addictions, and the apex of self-destruction he hit because of the money and attention given to him by the foot fiasco. Meanwhile, Shannon tries to understand his degree of celebrity, boasting big dreams of becoming a beloved, wealthy entertainer through his reality show appearances; a fantastic but crushing moment in the third act shows Shannon experiencing first-hand a reality show audience’s attention span for him as “The Foot Man." 

Inserted news reports label these eccentric events as a “freak show” but “Finders Keepers” unquestionably resists a mean spirit. This doc doesn’t get into the type of designation of heroes and villains, as previously chosen previously by one of its producers, Seth Gordon, who broke into filmmaking with 2007’s “King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.” (Although that doc’s nemesis Billy Mitchell does get an “Awesome Thanks” in this film’s closing credits). “Finders Keepers” wisely and warmly treats John and Shannon, both Davids to society as a Goliath, with a caring touch, expressing their very human nature defined by the comedy and tragedy within each. Their story is immensely entertaining, but the lunacy of these events is never out of their own understanding. 

Carberry & Tweel are pretty sharp as to how much the story tells itself, and often don’t mess with its natural order. On the other hand, aside from some driving score choices, or some select, pretty shots of B-roll, it’s as if the filmmaking loses personality to the eccentricities of everyone on screen. And in terms of assembly, “Finders Keepers” is a tad messy—we know that reenactments were filmed earlier than the leads’ dominating interviews (per Shannon’s haircut as a time mark), but we aren’t sure where the filming exactly takes place in the overall foot saga, especially as the impressions John and Shannon have on each other seem to change throughout. It’s an unnecessary distraction that overcomplicates a story that proves to have a beautiful, simple grace. 

In a very rare reflex even for the movies I already treasure, I was moved to watch "Finders Keepers" again immediately after the first viewing. This documentary is just so welcoming—and for events that defy believability—that I wanted more time in its atmosphere (the 83-minute running time is still just right). Sometimes you just find something that grabs ahold of you. 

In one of "Finders Keepers'" greatest gifts, it is inspiring how clear and clean the filmmaker's intentions are, especially against public opinion's regular impulse to quantify unusual headline subjects as memes from a 15-minute circus (the film wonderfully continues the ideas from the end of "Amy," which is also one of the best documentaries of the year). "Finders Keepers" is able to pack in all of this bizarre tale's inherently kooky colors—and have a great deal of fun with them—but its heart is always in the right place. 

 

 

FindersKeepers-Movie.com