In 2007, a North Carolina man got a lot more than he bargained for when he bid on a used grill from a repossessed storage unit at a local flea market. Much to his surprise, when Shannon Whisnant took the grill home, he discovered a severed human foot inside. An egotistical and boisterous personality, he unapologetically intended to keep this foot forever, despite demands of its return from the man whose foot it was. As bizarre as it sounds, this all happens within the first act of the film Finders Keepers, truly one of the strangest and funniest documentaries of the year.
While most people who discover an amputated body part would either alert authorities or get rid of it as quickly as possible, Shannon found this as an opportunity to cash in on 15 minutes of fame. Assuming that this severed foot would be an easy moneymaking spectacle, he charged $1 for children and $3 for adults to take a peek at just the grill the foot came in. He was making a name for himself as a ruthless media hog, and much to the dismay of his family, Shannon thought this was his big break. He always wanted to be “famous”. However, when John Wood caught word that Shannon had the foot, his foot, he publicly demanded it back. What happens next is a ridiculous media frenzy, a fantastic chain of events that ultimately leads to a custody battle over the foot on the Judge Mathis TV show.
It’s an unconventional idea, but the way John speaks to the camera and explains his hardships so honestly and, now seven years sober, so openly, we can’t help but support his decisions, no matter how crazy they may be.
Just how did the foot get in the grill in the first place? This is the question asked by so many throughout the course of this bizarre, true-life tale. Unfortunately, the story is born out of tragedy– John lost his foot in an airplane crash that also left his father dead. On top of struggling with drugs and alcohol for years, the death of his dad was especially hard on him, so he decided to mummify his foot in memoriam. It’s an unconventional idea, but the way John speaks to the camera and explains his hardships so honestly and, now seven years sober, so openly, we can’t help but support his decisions, no matter how crazy they may be.
Directors Bryan Carberry and Clay Tweel have really found a needle in a haystack with Finders Keepers. While it is tonally a funny film, they don’t shy away from hitting poignant, emotional notes that ground the film and give it substance. While it could have been easy to laugh at and look down on the situation, the way Carberry and Tweel capture John’s essence and Shannon’s ignorance is sweet; we laugh not at them, but with them.
I first saw Finders Keepers when it screened during this summer’s Sundance Next Fest and while I initially didn’t have high expectations that this documentary would be anything out of the ordinary, I did predict that I would be in for a wild ride. Now having seen the film, the term “wild ride” seems like an understatement. Funnily enough, when I left the theater at the Ace Hotel in Downtown L.A., I ran into John and his wife about a block away. I stopped to talk to him for a good 20 minutes, and he told me even more outrageous facts that will possibly be made into a narrative film. You heard it here first.
Finders Keepers opens in Los Angeles this Friday, September 25th; VOD October 2nd.