Director: Michael Patrick McKinley.

Happy was unveiled at MANIFF 2017 by first-time director Michael Patrick McKinley. It tells the story of Leonard ‘Porkchop’ Zimmerman and his ‘Happy’ campaign which has taken the world by storm over the last couple of years.

The screening was opened with a showing of a hard-hitting short film about homophobia in Africa, directed by Zimbabwean-born Lawrence Zidyana titled Because I Am. It was a short experimental film using silhouettes against drawn or painted backgrounds, featuring an all-female cast from various countries in Africa, all of which were refugees who had to flee their homes to avoid persecution due to their sexuality.

The short was followed by Happy, which opens with absolutely stunning visuals designed by Porkchop himself, backed by some funky music. The film follows the story of Porkchop’s life, ending with him as he is today, taking us through meeting the love of his life, dealing with the grief of him passing away and how he transformed that grief into his art. He teaches an incredibly strong message of how ‘you can’t be sad without the happy and you can’t be happy without the sad’, that happiness isn’t something we can ignore even when sad but we also can’t ignore the sadness when we’re happy. It’s a beautifully handled, incredibly moving story about an eclectic painter with a fantastic sense of humour.

The ‘Happy’ campaign focuses on spreading this idea of happiness throughout the world. It started locally in Porkchop’s home city of Augusta, Georgia but spread throughout the US and then eventually it made its way around the world. Even those of us at the screening got badges and stickers to spread it ourselves. There’s no profit making involved in the campaign; it’s all paid for out of Zimmerman’s own pocket or from sales of the merchandise on his website.

After the screening finished we got a great opportunity to have a Q&A with Michael Patrick McKinley, the director. The first question asked was: ‘How come you made this into a film?’ to which McKinley answered: “I saw Leonard’s TED talk on YouTube and it really stuck with me.” He continued with: “I woke up at 6:15 in the morning and I thought someone should make a film about his life… I heard an audible voice in my head telling me I should make this film.” He was then asked if he’d make another film to which he replied: “Oh yeah! I’ve got the bug now.”

Happy is definitely a film everyone should watch. It tells a beautiful story; teaches an amazing lesson and through it’s use of graphics offers stunning visuals. Keep an eye out for Michael Patrick McKinley’s future work as well. Stay Happy Folks!

We teamed up with Humanity Hallows to bring you complete coverage of the Manchester International Film Festival. You can view the full list of reviews which is being updated as we post new content here.

Zac Gardiner

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