Documentary Site started as an outlet for my interests in documentary 15 years ago. Since then, my presence has expanded to writing, managing Twitter fans, and connecting with makers, promoters, and fans of documentary. Probably three of the coolest things to come from this endeavor are being invited to write for POV, visiting Kartemquin studios, and leading a discussion after a screening of The Trials of Muhammad Ali. My current project involves watching and writing about 365 documentaries in 2014. Feel free to send along your suggestions via Twitter @documentarysite!

#365Docs Good Ol’ Freda (17/365)

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I’m watching 365 documentaries and writing about each one in 2014. Tweet your suggestions to @documentarysite, or send an e-mail to hmcintosh@documentarysite.com. Read more.

Note: This post may contain spoilers.

While the stories told by the band are interesting, sometimes the stories told by people associated with the band are just as interesting. Such is the case with Freda Kelly, the secretary who worked for the Beatles and ran their fan club during the group’s rise to fame and to after their disbanding.

At the beginning of Ryan White’s 2013 documentary, Kelly asks, “Who wants to hear the secretary’s story?” This modesty infuses the documentary with a certain charm as she recounts her experiences.

Through her tales, she shows how fame impacts everyone involved when a local group skyrockets to global fame. She recalls how the members’ parents reacted, specifically how George Harrison’s parents would invite fans in for tea.

You have to like Kelly. She was a Beatles fan long before the Beatles were a household name, and her affection for the members is genuine, not obsessive. The Beatles, too, shared that affection.

Kelly is respectful of what she shares, however. She refuses to divulge private information about the group, and she even dodges a question about her own personal involvements with them.

Her respect for the group shows in her treatment of their memorabilia. Her attic stores boxes of materials that might bring in enough money for her to retire comfortably. Instead, she continues working as a secretary.

While Kelly spends most of the documentary sitting and talking, lots of archival photographs, recordings, and footage help illustrate her recollections. The Beatles’ songs play throughout.

For a bit while watching this piece, I had wished the surviving Beatles had been interviewed for this piece. But I see now that their presence was not necessary. Kelly’s story is in part their story too, but what’s most important here is her telling of it, not theirs.

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Heather McIntosh
Heather McIntosh
Heather McIntosh started Documentary Site as a resource for documentary media and has greatly enjoyed the connections it has fostered over the years.