Search Museum of the Moving Image

People Everyday: The Films of Jeanie Finlay

Jun 5 — Jul 2, 2020

Where other documentary filmmakers might make sideshow spectacles of unconventional lifestyles, Emmy-nominated U.K. director Jeanie Finlay has always met her subjects where they are, as equals, focusing on individuals and communities with passions to pursue and stories to tell. Whether she is spending time with a community theater group or hanging out at a local record shop, recounting the story of a journeyman performer or taking a Goth cruise, going deep with teenagers or witnessing the physical and emotional challenges of a transgender man bearing his own child, Finlay is always on the level, seeing and celebrating the core person, never implying that she, or we, know them any better than they know themselves. No less important, her films are also a joy to watch, filled with comedy, drama, and personality, including that of the director herself, whose warm, inquisitive voice can occasionally be heard from behind the camera. 

Museum of the Moving Image presents the first American retrospective devoted to Jeanie Finlay with ten films, including the exclusive “virtual cinema” release of her eighth feature, Seahorse, from June 5 through 15. 

Finlay was nominated for an Emmy for Game of Thrones: The Last Stand (2019), for which she spent a year embedded on the set of the HBO series Game of Thrones—and which Indiewire called “beautiful, epic, and heartfelt.” While the film is not part of the retrospective, it can be viewed on HBO Go and other streaming services.

Organized by Curator of Film Eric Hynes.

People Everyday: The Films of Jeanie Finlay

All films will be available to view in MoMI’s “virtual cinema.”

Seahorse tickets: $12 ($10 for Museum members—please refer to the discount code in your member email). Tickets for other titles are $3.99 ($2.99 for Museum members). 

A $20 pass ($15 for members) for all retrospective titles (not including Seahorse) is available here. A code will be sent via email after purchase and is valid for the duration of the series. 

All films directed by Jeanie Finlay.

Seahorse (2019, 89 mins.) 

Available June 5–15. Freddy is 30 and yearns to start a family but for him this ordinary desire comes with unique challenges. He is a gay transgender man. Deciding to carry his own baby took years of soul searching, but nothing could prepare him for the reality of pregnancy, as both a physical experience and one that challenges society’s fundamental understanding of gender, parenthood, and family. Made with unprecedented access and collaboration over three years, the film follows Freddy from preparing to conceive right through to birth. It is an intimate, audacious and lyrical story about conception, pregnancy, birth and what makes us who we are.

Orion: The Man Who Would Be King (2015, 86 mins.)

Jeanie Finlay tells the story of Jimmy Ellis – an unknown singer plucked from obscurity and thrust into the spotlight as part of a crazy scheme that had him masquerade as Elvis back from the grave. “Deftly told… a strange and tragic piece of musical history that says worlds about the fickleness of fame and ends with a jolt that makes it even sadder.”—Critic’s Pick, The New York Times

Panto! (2014, 71 mins.)

A heartfelt and heartbreaking documentary, Panto! follows a cast of Nottingham amateur actors staging a production of Puss in Boots. This hilarious backstage glimpse follows their attempts to rehearse, provide costumes, and scenery on a minuscule budget. Malfunctioning pyrotechnics and a donkey costume that exposes more than expected are just some of the challenges they face.

The Great Hip Hop Hoax (2013, 86 mins.)

Foul-mouthed Californian hip hop duo Silibil n’ Brains were going to be massive. But no one knew the pair were really amiable Scotsmen, with fake American accents and made up identities. This documentary tells the audacious tale of how two lads from Dundee duped the record industry and nearly destroyed themselves. “A great tale of a rock n roll swindle, told with pop star flair and biting intelligence.”—The Herald

SOUND IT OUT (2011, 75 mins.)

“It’s all emotions and memories. Records hold memories.” SOUND IT OUT is a documentary portrait of the very last surviving vinyl record shop in Teesside, North East England—a cultural haven in one of the most deprived areas in the United Kingdom, a place that is thriving against the odds and the local community that keeps it alive. Director Jeanie Finlay who grew up three miles from the shop. “Like a mint pressing in a bargain bin SOUND IT OUT is a rare find.”—The New York Times

Goth Cruise (2008, 75 mins.)

Goth Cruise follows 150 pale “people in black” on a boat, taking part in the absolute antithesis of Goth—a cruise in the blazing sunshine, as they sail around Bermuda for five days on the 4th Annual Goth Cruise. “Disregard everything you know about Goth culture. Goth Cruise is a landmark documentary that takes a candid and ultimately redefining look at what it really means to be Goth.”—Sheffield Documentary Festival

Teenland (2008, 60 mins.)

Four bedrooms, four teenagers, four portraits of life behind the closed bedroom door. Teenland takes us into the sanctuary of four British adolescents on the brink of adulthood and explores their passions, obsessions, and hopes for the future. “Brilliant….an almost-fairytale atmosphere as we push the doors into the forbidden kingdom of teenage minds.”—Four Docs

Jeanie Finlay’s Short Films

Indietracks (2016, 30 mins.) In 2007 an indiepop music festival was born in the unlikeliest of settings—a heritage steam train site in Butterley, Derbyshire. Indietracks is a film about big machines, small bands and unbridled passion.

Nottingham Lace (2010, 25 mins.) Once the Lace Market of Nottingham pounded to the heavy metal beat of its handmade lace-making machines… but no more. Cluny Lace is the last of the lace makers.

Love Takes (2008, 10 mins). Finding Mr Right is apparently as difficult at 8 as it is at 80. Love Takes charts the places that love takes us and leaves us as we fall in and out of love over a lifetime.