If you ever need to package a few fond and sentimental memories together, Bill Kersey is just the filmmaker to do it, as he shows in “87 Topaz”, a grandson’s chronicle of his grandfather’s diary, which was always written in every day no matter how mundane the activities or even if he didn’t do anything. Old and new cars are the connecting thread here as well, as we learn from letters from grandfather to grandson of a good, steadily working car, an ’87 Mercury Topaz. Through the narration of Carl Jackson, the early days of cars are also lovingly discussed as the grandfather recalls his first car, a 1926 Ford T Roadster for $125, which he nearly had to get parental permission at 16 years old in order to buy it.
Arne Koland, who died of Alzheimer’s disease in 1994, has been treated with the utmost respect by Kersey, just like the young Josh Couch was honored in “Solace.” Kersey understands the nature of memories a whole lot better than some other filmmakers, going so far as to use everything available, including Super-8 home movie footage running behind shots of the diary entries and letters. For Kersey, a long-deceased person is not whole again until everything about them has been found and used, especially the most affecting moments, of joy felt by the simplest things, of a stream of cars in life that made the good days even better, of just living and observing through words what the days have been like, of being oneself for all time and hopefully one day having Kersey look at that life through his own sensibilities. He is a filmmaker no one should forget and hopefully that will be true throughout his future films.