NUTS! screened as a part of the U.S. Documentary category at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. For more information, head here.
NUTS! is the craziest documentary about goat testicle transplants you’ll ever see. And the craziest part might be that the goat testicle transplants aren’t even the most interesting part of the documentary. “How is this possible?” you’re thinking. “Because goat testicle transplants sound pretty damn interesting.” Well, filmmaker Penny Lane somehow stumbled across the most interesting, unbelievable story in all of America and that is the story of John R. Brinkley.
Brinkley had humble beginnings: he grew up poor in the early 1900s and always wanted to be a doctor but was laughed out of medical school because he had no shoes. He worked hard, got his diploma, got married, and moved to Milford, Kansas to start his practice. It was there that he first decided to experiment with goat testicle transplants to cure male impotence. It worked (or so it seemed) and Brinkley went on to become wildly successful and incredibly wealthy.
On top of being a doctor, Brinkley was also a pioneer of radio and even ran for Governor of Kansas because why not (he promised every county of Kansas would get a lake because “God blessed Kansas with everything but lakes”). But The Man always wants to bring down anyone so beloved by the public and eventually he was run out of Kansas. He more or less gave The Man the finger and moved to Texas to set up an even better radio station just across the border (pioneering more radio technologies).
At this point you may be thinking that all of this sounds too insane to be true. And you’re right, but only one small part isn’t true. Lane crafts an incredibly clever documentary that sucks you into the story until the shocking grand finale. Archival footage (newspaper clippings, audio recordings) and interviews from historians are mixed with fun, unique animations and soothing bedtime story-like narration that lead us through Brinkley’s incredulous history.
What should be the craziest part of the documentary (goat testicle transplants, remember) quickly gets swept aside as we inevitably find ourselves rooting for Brinkley, much like his adoring public did. And that is the true genius of NUTS! The documentary is framed to take us on the same emotional journey his public did and also utilizes methods Brinkley used to help boost his popularity.
For anyone who loves a good old-fashioned tall tale, this is a must-see documentary. It’s laugh-out-loud funny (goat testicle transplants, remember), bizarre, and even gets a little bit meta at the end.
Siân Melton is covering Sundance for us live from Park City, Utah. Read about her other work, including her Toronto-based film series The MUFF Society, below.