Melbourne Documentary Film Festival Review: Tommy Emmanuel: The Endless Road is finger-picking good

He’s Australia’s very own finger-picking, boogie-woogie man. Tommy Emmanuel is a guitar icon and one of only a handful of people who can say they’re a certified guitar player. Tommy Emmanuel: The Endless Road is an entertaining look at many facets of this charismatic musician and artist.

This film is written and directed by Jeremy Dylan who has made several music videos for The McClymonts, Imogen Clark and many other. Dylan is also a music journalist by trade and he asks some important questions here. But you do get a sense that a little more probing was necessary at times. This film manages to steer clear of hagiography territory, but some topics see things left unanswered or unexplored.

As a primer to the guitarist’s life, The Endless Road succeeds and would be entertaining for both casual and enthusiastic fans. We learn about Emmanuel’s childhood spent playing in the family band, The Midget Surfaries. Emmanuel then graduated to talent competitions and session work. He also gigged as a member of Dragon, as well as playing with his late brother Phil in the Emmanuel Brothers.

Emmanuel left Australia and pursued a successful solo career. These days he calls Nashville home. It’s interesting to see that this documentary manages to capture some of Emmanuel’s contractions. On the one hand, his public image (especially during the mid-eighties and nineties) was that of a squeaky-clean, family man. Yet behind closed doors, Emmanuel was grappling a serious drug habit. Emmanuel is a restless soul, constantly moving and never content to sit still. But even with these insatiable qualities he also seems to have found contentment in his personal life and is an eternal optimist.

There are some scenes which show Emmanuel alongside his mentor and dear friend, the late great Chet Atkins. These two guitar maestros recorded an album together before the latter passed away. It is clear that Emmanuel is someone who has earned a lot of respect from those in the showbiz world. This is especially clear in the interviews that feature and include the likes of: Eric Idle, Sir Barry Gibb, John Oates, Olivia Newton-John and Joe Satriani.

This film uses archive footage, blistering performance clips and interviews, just like most music documentaries. The result is a mostly intriguing portrait of one our most talented and driven artists. You don’t have a six-decades long career without some serious musical chops and Emmanuel has this in spades. The Endless Road ultimately celebrates one golden guitar player from the magical Land of Oz.


Tommy Emmanuel: The Endless Road plays as part of Melbourne’s International Documentary Film Festival. For more information and tickets head HERE.

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