COMING TO THEATERS AND VOD ON FEBRUARY 17! Matthew Bauer’s documentary feature, The Other Fellow, spotlights the infamous lives of men worldwide who go by the infamous name of Bond, James Bond. The catch is that’s their real name. It’s about James Bond but has nothing to do with the most famous James Bond.
At first, one may think that having this moniker would be a badge of honor, but when you’ve lived with that name, it becomes a tedious series of the same comments and questions from a random stranger who thinks their being cute. These comments include “say the line” and “shaken or stirred.” In addition, they are constantly asked if their favorite number is 007 or to show their “license to kill.” The madness only ramps up when the next installment of 007 hits the big screen or when speculating who the next Bond will be.
The Other Fellow opens with Bond author Ian Fleming’s inspiration for the name from one of his favorite books, Birds of the West Indies. Fleming was looking for a very plain name and stole it from noted ornithologist James Bond. This benign inspiration would soon change the life of the bird scientist. Bond would one day confront Fleming in person about his flagrant use of identity theft.
“…spotlights the infamous lives of men worldwide who go by the infamous name of Bond, James Bond.”
Then director Bauer moves on to the lives of everyday people legally possessing James Bond’s name. New York theater director, James Bond, is a gay man who is often asked about his ability to bed random women, just like his namesake. His experience is a mixed bag of fun and frustration. He doesn’t necessarily appreciate the notoriety of his name but found ways to make money off it from an appearance on a David Letterman Top Ten List and a few commercials taking advantage of his name. I get it. Don’t give it away for free. If you’re going to make Bond say the phrase, you might as well pay him for it.
Probably the most infamous story of a real-life Bond comes from a Black man in South Bend, Indiana. In his young adult life, James Bond Jr. was arrested for obstruction of justice for “playfully” saying his name “James Bond” to a police officer. James Bond Jr. spent 60 days in prison for suspected word intonation. He would later find himself with an arrest warrant in a murder investigation. As word got out on the news of a manhunt for “James Bond,” the citizens of South Bend couldn’t believe this incredible news. Adding another wrinkle to the story is that in South Bend, another man named “James Bond” overhears news of the manhunt and wonders if that is him.
The Other Fellow does feature one example of a person who isn’t named Bond. It’s the story of a woman who entered an abusive relationship with a person with that name. She had a child, and when she found the courage to leave him to live a life in seclusion, she decided to change her son’s name to James Bond, of course. The reason she did it was a stroke of genius (see the doc for the answer).
The Other Fellow is an odd documentary about a weird subject. It asks the question of what it’s like for people who have that infamous name and how it has affected their lives. The scope of the film is broad. Bauer speaks to gentlemen around the world and masterfully picks apart the issue in a comprehensive way. The shared experiences of the Bonds around the world and the extraordinary consequences of having that name are interesting. For budding documentarians, this is an example of a film birthed from a simple “I wonder…” statement. Through research and diligence, filmmaker Matthew Bauer managed to string together an intriguing and engaging film.
The Other Fellow screened at the 2023 SF Indie Fest.
"…intriguing and engaging..."