Season 1 | Episode 5 | “A Town, a Gangster, a Festival” | Aired Sep 17, 2015
This week, the IFC mockumentary/doc-parody series Documentary Now! shines the light on the odd but very real world of fan festivals.
Helen Mirren once again greets the audience and introduces tonight’s documentary: A Town, a Gangster, a Festival. For three days sometime near January 17, the town of Arborg, Iceland, hosts an annual Al Capone Festival to celebrate the Chicago gangster who killed a lot of people and died of syphilis or a stroke or pneumonia. Who really knows? A group of documentarians travel to the Icelandic town to witness and capture the strange beauty that is the Al Capone Festival.
The town of Arborg is abuzz as the citizens prepare for the annual Al Capone festival. Even in the schools, the young children learn about cigars, tommy guns, speakeasies, and how they all relate to Al Capone.
The Al Capone festival was started in a local bar in 1966 and became a whole=town event in 1974. The town’s people are obsessed with Capone and the festival. Even the local baker traveled all the way to Chicago to learn how to make real Chicago deep-dish pizza. This year, though, there are some concerns. The neighboring town of Vogar is hosting the first annual Jimi Hendrix festival the same exact weekend as Arborg’s Al Capone festival. Arborg also has a new mayor who couldn’t care less about the festival, but is trying to put forth an effort.
Thanks to the Al Capone festival committee, we soon learn that the true gem of this festival is the Al Capone lookalike contest that takes place every year. The lookalike committee meets to narrow down the finalist for the contest. This year there are three: Neeloofar Shirazi (Fred Armisen), an Iranian immigrant and local shop owner; Nina Karlsdottir, an Al Capone fanatic; and the reigning champion, Gunnar.
To mix things up a bit, the lookalike committee thought it would be a good idea to add a trivia round to the contest. Both Neeloofar and Nina study for this new round, but champion Gunnar is not worried because he is Al Capone’s number-one fan.
Finally it is the morning of the festival, and everyone is ready to celebrate. The streets of Arborg are filled with locals and some tourists. Pop-up speakeasies, cop races, and even literature on how NOT to get syphilis are some of the festivals highlights. But everyone is waiting for the lookalike contest to begin.
Neeloofar, Nina, and Gunnar finish their final touches before heading off to the contest. Neeloofar adds a cigar to his look and heads to the festival with his two sons. Nina’s husband has made her a wooden tommy gun, and the two are very excited for the day. Gunnar paints on his scars, but is thrown for a loop when his son decides to attend the Jimi Hendrix festival instead.
Our three Al Capone lookalikes hit the stage, and the mayor begins the trivia round. Though Gunnar seems like a fan favorite, he is completely failing at the trivia—he did not answer a single Capone question right. Neeloofar and Nina are great at trivia. After the trivia round is over, the judges take a break to choose a winner. During this time, the documentary crew asks the townsfolk who they think should win. It is a mixed reaction, but it seems like the easygoing people of Arborg would be happy for any of the three to win the title.
The decision has been made, and the three Al Capone lookalikes take the stage again. The mayor announces that all three contestants have won! The town, Neeloofar, Nina, and Gunnar celebrate. The mayor then announces that there is a special guest: the great-great-granddaughter of Al Capone, Anne Severino (Aidy Bryant), is in Arborg to celebrate.
In an interview with the documentary crew, Anne shares that when she first got an email about this festival, she thought it was a prank. But holy crap, it isn’t.
The festival ends with a parade celebrating Capone and his lookalikes. Neeloofar now feels accepted in his new home.
Next week, on the season finale of Documentary Now!, the show will spoof the 2013 documentary History of the Eagles, with the documentary Gentle & Soft: The Story of the Blue Jean Committee.
Documentary Now! airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on IFC.