Christopher Kirk, the subject of Maíra Bühler and Matias Mariani’s documentary, is as captivating and elusive as the film’s various titles.
The São Paulo-based filmmakers call it A Vida Privada dos Hipopótamos (The Private Life of Hippos), from a story about the last surviving animals at Pablo Escobar’s private zoo that prompted Kirk to visit Colombia. Like the hippopotami, he wasn’t supposed to be there, but adapted to the foreign environment. The U.S. release title, I Touched All Your Stuff, refers to an elaborate prank, when a puckish friend covered Kirk’s Olympia, Washington, apartment in aluminum foil. Unwrapping Chris Kirk proves to be a more daunting task than just peeling away that shiny surface.
As Kirk recounts his fraught romance with a Japanese-Colombian woman known as V, another title could be The Catfisher King, with this I.T. tech and professed expert on con artists trading theoretical distance for emotional immersion. But is Kirk a raconteur or rube, victim or instigator? In Lapeer (a county seat in Michigan’s thumb), he’s the gawky kid who escaped a stultifying hometown, while Olympia friends trumpet his gregarious naïveté. Third-act twists call these portrayals into question.
Bühler and Mariani make their process part of the narrative, deconstructing the documentary form while delving into Kirk’s copious digital life. They investigate Kirk while he recalls investigating V in a fascinating hall of mirrors where IRL encounters are reflected as reality bytes. Information is accumulated, but details obfuscate as much as clarify. Having slipped the knots of convention, the canny Kirk remains at large.
I Touched All Your Stuff (A Vida Privada dos Hipopótamos)
Directed by Maíra Bühler and Matias Mariani
Opens August 28, Cinema Village