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Lift-Off Film Festival 2017 Review: Busking Turf Wars

First-time director Peter Trifunovic hits gold with busking mockumentary

By

Busking Turf Wars was advertised as a traditional documentary surrounding the busking scene in Leeds. Five minutes in and sadly I was very unimpressed. It took me far longer than I would like to admit to realise that this was in fact a mockumentary, with clear influence from shows such as The Office. From that moment on my opinion changed entirely.

Steven Lockmoore is no ordinary busker. He doesn’t just sing to the onlookers, instead giving them an unforgettable experience. In one scene he regaled us with a tale from his past about someone coming up to him during a set. ‘What chord’s that?’ they said. His reply? ‘I don’t do chords mate’. In essence that is Steven Lockmoore. There is no rulebook, and if there was he would have written it anyway. All improvisation, all heart. This sets him apart from the mainstream buskers, and what endears him to the locals of Leeds.

Beneath the surface there are some real issues dealt with during the film. Of love true and love lost. Of friends and of foes. Ultimately though it’s one man’s struggle to get the recognition he deserves. Along the way he faces hardship, like working in a corner store to continue his long hours of busking. Even the greats had to pay rent. Heck even Madonna worked at Dunkin’ Donuts. Chasing your dreams is not easy, but Steven battles on regardless.

Suddenly a challenger enters the arena. Whilst there is no rulebook to busking, there is an unspoken code of conduct. One of the most disrespectful things one busker can do to another is steal his spot. This is what the challenger, who goes by the name Paul, does. However Steven will not give up, he has been busking too hard for too long to let some spineless wannabe take his rightful position. So they solve the dispute in the only way they know how, a busk off. Taking it in turns to play a song, whoever makes the most money wins the rights and ownership of the land. But when Steven’s dad makes a surprise appearance, the battle takes an unexpected turn.

Six months on, with a new haircut and a middle-management position at the store, Steven is a changed man. Sworn off busking, he says his life has changed for the better, that he is happy. That could not be further from the truth and regardless of how much he applies himself to the corner shop nothing can fill the guitar shaped hole in his heart. The old Steven is in there, he just needs to be released from the shackles of society. Then the cameraman informs him that Paul will be at Battle of the Buskers X, the tenth anniversary. Just like that, in a fashion that can only be described as Hulk-like, the shackles are shattered and Steven quits his job. His mind is clear, his goal is set. Win the competition, and more importantly, beat Paul.

After I understood the satirical nature of this film, I was hooked. The script was incredibly well-writtten, with none of the jokes falling flat or feeling forced, which is a problem many mockumentaries face.

Christy Coysh who plays in the leading role was sublime, captivating me about the intricacies of the Leeds busking scene, something that until I watched the film I did not know existed. His performance, coupled with the outstanding direction made this a film of considerable quality. One that I feel has immense replay value.