HotDocs Preview: The Invention of Dr Nakamats

Dr Nakamats is the world’s most prolific inventor with over 3000 patents to Edison’s mere 1000+. You learn this within 2 minutes of the film starting because Dr Nakamats makes sure you know. There are lots of things Dr Nakamats wants you to know and this is the basis for the majority of this wonderfully quirky portrait.

Inventor of the floppy disk, CD, DVD, Cinemascope and even karaoke, Nakamats is an octogenarian who still very much feels he’s in his prime. A slightly formidable character, he takes control of the film and it plays largely like a corporate video. Many scenes appear engineered for our benefit, from Nakamats wrestling, and beating, a much younger man and proceeding to tell the camera he’s also beaten 10 other men previously.

Nakamats refers to himself in the third person and addresses the camera at all times, as much as he constantly heralds his own achievements he is so endearing and genuine that you never tire of his persistent presentation of his designs.

As impressive as his multitude of inventions are it is his theories on life that are the most wonderful parts of his character. Nakamats eats only one meal a day, believing every meal aids the aging process. He has also photographed every meal he’s eaten for the last 34 years. Rather than stop each scene when we hear of these particular theories director Kaspar Astrup Schröder allows Nakamats to proceed and we are taken down different tangents, in this case learning of his love of cameras and a further theory as to how to know whether a camera is good or not, by smelling it.

Nakamats also has many tips as to how to fuel the creative process in order to come up with ideas for inventions. He believes that too much oxygen is bad for the brain and that 0.5 seconds prior to death the brain is functioning at its highest level. To attempt to achieve this Nakamats swims underwater whilst holding, another of his inventions, a waterproof notepad and pencil to collect his ideas as soon as they come to him.

The Invention of Dr Nakamats is an incredibly fun film to watch, what could easily have been a tongue in cheek joke on Nakamats’ peculiarities is actually quite a respectful bias-free portrait. And while you can’t imagine you could have a lot of control with what happened on camera Kaspar Astrup Schröder skilfully gets around this by using the build-up to Nakamats’ 80th birthday as an arc running throughout the film which allows us to see the eccentric director separately to his direct to camera addresses.

Other aspects that make this film a must-see are the absolutely stunning opening and title sequences by Rob Chiu (which you can see here) and the incredibly fun and engrossing score by Silas Hite and Mark Motherbaugh.

I wish there were more documentaries like this, with such wonderful attention to detail and balance between showing humour and respect for a fascinating and eccentric character. I urge you to check out the trailer after the jump.

The Invention of Dr Nakamats is showing at HotDocs on Sat, May 01 at 4:15 pm and Wed, May 05 at 1:45 pm, with Arsy-Versy (which is also well worth seeing) and has been picked up for distribution by Mercury Media in the UK and Cinetic in the US.