It’s hard to imagine life in Australia without there being some kind of memory of Slim Dusty stuck in your head. For me it is laying in bed in Latrobe, Tasmania, as a child hearing my Grandfather get ready for work while listening to Slim Dusty coming from his old school wireless. Time would go on, my musical tastes would get heavier but the music of Slim would still remain in my life occasionally thanks to the soundracks of some of my favourite Australian films – Dirty Deeds and Wolf Creek 2.
I’ll admit though it has taken me watching Kriv Stenders (Red Dog) brand new documentary Slim & I to truly understand why Slim is considered an Australian cultural icon. Learning facts such as Slim recording 106 albums in his lifetime, being the first Australian to have a worldwide #1 hit and amassing a massive 45 Golden Guitar Awards quickly makes you realise why Steders felt that Slim’s story needed to be told to a younger generation.
As we have seen in Stenders’ films over the years he likes to be creative and the same goes with what he has done with Slim & I. Sure Stenders uses archival footage and emotional interviews but the power of Slim & I comes through with some creative re-enactments and getting modern day music icons like Paul Kelly and Kasey Chambers to not only talk about their favourite Slim Dusty tracks but also play a little bit of them as well.
What I also loved about this documentary though was the story-telling that Stenders uses to strengthen the facts that he presents in the film. As the title of the documentary suggests this is as much the story of Slim’s wife singer-songwriter Joy McKean as it is about Slim. The interviews with McKean in Slim & I are some of the film’s most beautiful moments, but hearing her story about how she overcome major health issues to become a performer and one of the first female radio presenters adds a strong element to the film that a lot of filmmakers probably would have chosen to ignore.
So often documentaries about musicians do very little but glorify the music of said artist. With Slim & I though Stenders gets much deeper than that. This documentary tells the love story of Slim and Joy became a couple and the result was some of the most beautiful song lyrics the music industry had ever seen. It is also the story of how Slim has influenced some of the modern day music icons and how the music of one man launched country and western music in Australia. Yes, this is a documentary that will teach you something as you fall in love with it.