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Spirit Unforgettable: Documentary about John Mann and the Spirit of the West

2 April 2017 No Comment

The Vancouver International Film Festival presented the documentary by Pete McCormack.

By Oswaldo Perez Cabrera.

Spirit Unforgettable won the award for Most Popular Canadian Documentary (based on audience balloting).

spiritunforgettableThe film is as local as it can get. The documentary is dramatic and powerful and will leave a tear in your eye. The music is an auditory photograph for the people who were around in BC and Canada in general in the eighties and nineties and even at the beginning of the century. I am sure that some of you reading these lines are even in the documentary, or saw something in it as it happened in real life with your own eyes and in full colour. This documentary also hits hard to our community because the subject, John Mann, is a friend or a neighbour; a familiar figure for most of us, one of Vancouver greatest icons and a great guy.

I am sure thousands of Vancouverites and tens of thousands of Canadians have sung from the top of their lungs, probably inebriated, hugging his and her fellow bar mates, or in private parties when the host feels the need to energize the evening, or at the concerts jumping and sweating with the Irish infused songs that goes like this:

“You’ll have to excuse me, I’m not at my best

I’ve been gone for a month, I’ve been drunk since I left

These so called vacations will soon be my death

I’m so sick from the drink, I need home for a rest…”

“Home for a Rest”—Spirit of the West

spirit-of-the-westVanMusic being a local zine has a close and personal connection with John Mann, not only because we support the band through radio and posts, but because Max Hime, one of our collaborators, is a friend of the family. John’s daughter dated Max’s son for a while. The screening of the film Spirit Unforgettable was full of John´s friends and fans. Everyone of them had the opportunity to meet a candid, strong, loving and determined John Mann in his private surroundings with his family and bandmates. A beautiful life homage from Director Pete McCormack, who is also a close friend of the family.

For the outsiders and people that are not familiar with the iconic Vancouver band Spirit of the West, the documentary will present you to a lively band that while playing Irish and Celtic infused rock tunes, they were like a punk band with a bunch of guys having fun a la Canadian way. The documentary is told by archival clips of the band from their beginnings to their almost super star status with interviews of Jill Daum (Manns’ wife), his daughter, his bandmates and friends. The turning point is their final tour with their big concert in Toronto. The director Pete McCormack has made a powerful and emotional documentary so you don’t have to be familiar or even know the band to be touched and entertained in many ways.

spirit_unforgettableThis is the compelling story about a man facing Alzheimer and realizing he is losing everything he loved in life as the disease progresses. When Mann forgets the lyrics of their most famous song the band knew something was wrong, but John is a very stubborn man and kept singing and playing even if he needed a teleprompter iPod to remember the words.  

The Spirit of the West is a band that was alive for 32 years even though they slowed down since the beginning of the century. John Mann is 53 years old and final incarnation of the band includes Geoffrey Kelly, the only original member left and co writer with John Mann, Vince Ditrich on drums, Hugh McMillan on bass, Tobi Frank on accordion and keyboards and Matthew Harder on guitar, a roadie and long time fan that joined full time to help with John’s parts on the guitar.  

The documentary shows the preparation for the Massey Hall concert in Toronto at the end of 2015, would Mann be able to perform it?  Would Ditrich who has his own personal health problems? In December 2015, the band announced that they would perform a three-night run at the Commodore Ballroom from April 15 to 17 as their final shows. Spirit Unforgettable leads us to the story of Mann, the band and modern Canada. A truly genial rock documentary.  

Spirit Unforgettable was screened by the Vancouver International Film Festival.


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