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Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive, with funding from the National Film Preservation Foundation and The Packard Humanities Institute.

The Sid Saga (Parts 1-3, 1985-1989)

Sid Laverents
March 21, 2011 - 7:30 pm
Ross Lipman, UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Directed by Sid Laverents

Producer, Screenwriter, Cinematographer: Sid Laverents. With: Sid Laverents.

35mm, b/w and color, 90 min.

Long a legend in the amateur filmmaking community, ex-vaudevillian Sid Laverents burst into national attention in 2000 at age 92, when he was “re-discovered” by filmmaker/historian Melinda Stone. His short film Multiple Sidosis—preserved by the UCLA Film & Television Archive—was selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry, and he has become a cult legend. Laverents passed away at age 100 in 2009. The Sid Saga, Parts 1-3 is his magnum opus and an undiscovered masterpiece. 

In form, The Sid Saga is classic Laverents, beginning with the archetypal living room scene in which a suburban neighbor asks Sid about his photo album and ultimately receives much more than she bargained for. It sets Sid off on a biographical quest in which we learn he’s not just led a long life; but seemingly hundreds. The film chronicles Laverents’ impoverished immigrant family’s many moves across the country in the early part of the century seeking work, Sid’s vaudeville years as a one-man band, his marriages, and his many careers—running the gamut from dishwasher to, literally, rocket scientist. 

However that’s just the beginning. The film also includes a detailed account of Laverents’s career as a filmmaker, which spanned everything from eccentric nature documentaries to mind-boggling comedies. A final part, shot in video, documents the physical and emotional struggles of his 80’s, after the death of his wife Adelaide, and includes graphic footage of his face-lift operation—part of a successful attempt to attract a new partner as he approached age 90.

Throughout it all is what Laverents scholar/Roctober editor Jake Austin describes as a “can-do optimism,” which carries Sid and his audience from natural disaster (in the form of the 1929 flood in Elba, Alabama), to the financial woes of the Depression, to World War II, to marital dramas that easily merit their own soap opera. 

Comprised of carefully archived personal sources including old photographs, newspaper clippings, home movies, audiotapes and patent applications, the film additionally includes a wealth of newly shot footage. In typical Sid fashion, he therein handles everything himself, adding hand-drawn animation to his customary turns at cinematography, writing, narration, editing and post-production. In the telling, we learn not just about Sid, but about the ordinary-yet-fantastic worlds in which he traveled. The film is the story of one life and an American century. 

—Ross Lipman

Preserved from the original 16mm color reversal a/b rolls, original 16mm prints and work prints, the original 16mm magnetic soundtracks, and the original 1/4” magnetic tracks. Laboratory services by The Stanford Theatre Film Laboratory, Fotokem, Audio Mechanics, NT Picture and Sound. Special thanks to: Jake Austin, Pea Hicks, Sid and Charlotte Laverents, Melinda Stone.