Prior to signing with Def Jam records in March of 2011, Wax (aka. Michael Jones) was wanted by the law…in Canada at least. On August 20, 2010 Wax arrived in Toronto to play a series of shows. Unfortunately a DUI incident that occurred in the States led to Wax being rejected entry at the border. However, as the saying goes, the show must go on or at least that is the motto Wax and the concert organizers must have been thinking. Fugitives: Wax Live recounts the events that took place on the day that Wax was smuggled into Canada and performed a series of shows for his faithful fans in Toronto. The film not only follows Wax as he performs at various venues, but also highlights the legal repercussions that Wax and his accomplices faced as a result of their actions.
It is important to note that Fugitives: Wax Live is a concert film first and foremost. The actual story of Wax being illegally smuggled into Canada is not as gripping as the premise would have you believe. The more Wax recounts his encounter with immigration, the less suspenseful it actually seems. While no one likes the idea of spending time in jail, let alone a foreign one, you rarely get the sense that the punishment will actually be as bad as Wax and his accomplices think it will be. If anything, the Canadian immigration officers come off as, if nothing else, being too trusting. Even when they have Wax in custody, they still present him with options that anyone in the situation would deem favorable.
Fortunately, the film only intermittently focuses on Wax’s legal troubles. Director Shawn Thomsen wisely chooses to spend most of his documentary short focusing on what brought Wax to Toronto in the first place, his music. Fugitives: Wax Live is a great introduction into Wax the artist. Splicing together footage from his main show and his all-ages concert, Thomsen successfully showcases Wax as a truly gifted lyricist who is on the verge of breaking through. While the talent is definitely there, it would have been nice to hear from some of his Toronto fans, especially the younger ones, as to what makes Wax special in their eyes. Even Wax himself seems slightly baffled by the fact that Toronto is only second to Baltimore in regards to the largest congregation of fans.
Although the overall narrative of Wax’s encounter with immigration is not as compelling as it could have been, the footage of Wax performing more than makes up the shortcomings of the premise. As a concert film, Fugitives: Wax Live serves as a solid introduction to Wax and his music. Wax is a charismatic individual with tons of talent who, similar to the film itself, only seems to be scratching the surface of his potential.
Screening: Thursday June 14th 2:15 pm at the National Film Board (150 John Street)
Full festitval program and ticket information can be found on the North By Northeast (NXNE) Festival website.