The San Francisco International Film Festival is underway, and while we recently offered our 10 Must See-Films, those certainly aren't the only 10 movies you should see. Indeed, if that list had gone up to 11 -- and, really, shouldn't they all? Down with base-10 tyranny! -- we absolutely would have included Good Ol' Freda. So, consider this our official extra recommendation: You should totally check out Ryan White's heartwarming documentary about the Beatles' secretary, Freda Kelly.
Like Citizen Kane's Mr. Bernstein, Freda Kelly was there from before the beginning, a Liverpudlian teenager hired by manager Brian Epstein while the Beatles were merely Freda's favorite band at the Cavern Club. She was in charge of the Official Beatles Fan Club until 1971, well after the end.
Though there are occasional interviews with other Liverpool figures and people in the know, Good Ol' Freda is essentially a one-woman oral history, the endlessly charming Freda telling her story of her time working as liaison to millions of fans during the highs and lows of Beatlemania, throughout all the tumult remaining the only person they all trust. It's a loyalty she maintains to this day, pointedly not delving into any personal relations she may or may not have had with any of the members, and in general refusing to gossip -- other than acknowledging what an utter cock John Lennon was more often than not. (Poor, poor Cynthia.)
Supplementing her recollections are many photographs and film clips from the time period, and there's an understandable bias towards pictures of Freda as well as ones that illustrate her anecdotes. As a result, there's a lot that armchair Beatles historians may have never seen before. Director White even avoids the temptation to show the "Sprout of New Generation" girl -- a clip which, let's face it, never gets old. Let's enjoy it right now!
Good Ol' Freda is highly recommended for Beatles fans, rock-history buffs, and anyone who appreciates the beauty of the Liverpool accent. Check it out.
Good Ol' Freda plays on Wednesday, May 1 at 9:30 p.m. and Thursday, May 2 at 6:45 p.m. at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas; and on Sunday, May 5 at 5:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archives. Advance tickets are sold out, but rush tickets will be available. For more info, go to festival.sffs.org.