Watch: Sam Klemke, The Original Selfie King And His “time Machine”

Sam Klemke has recorded himself at the end of every year to reflect on the previous 12 months. In this fascinating short film, we travel backwards through time over 35 years from 2011 to the beginning of the film project in 1976. In 2011, he handed over his lifetime supply of footage to Australian director Matthew Bate who turned it into a documentary “Sam Klemke’s Time Machine” presented at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

Watch: Sam Klemke, the original selfie king and his time machine

As a professional caricaturist, Sam Klemke has lived a strange and interesting life, earning his crust touring fairs and markets across the United States. He has accumulated many stories over the years and met many people, but his day job isn’t the focus of Sam Klemke’s Time Machine, a documentary by the Adelaide-based director Matthew Bate.

Klemke, 58, has compulsively filmed himself for more than four decades. In 1977, then a pimply 19-year-old with braces, he started recording news bulletin-inspired direct-to-camera monologues he called ‘annual personal status updates’. The intention was to reflect on the previous year and set goals for the next one.

Over time, updates became more regular and the role of the camera morphed from a diary to a confession booth, capturing revealing reflections from an often anguished subject. Bate’s documentary draws parallels to current online trends and the man at the heart of it has been described in many ways, from ‘the original selfie guy’ to the inventor of the self-confessional video.

‘I think the difference between me and the young kids who are talking on their selfies is most of them are taking their pictures going, ‘I’m so happy, aren’t things great, I’m with my friends,’ ‘ says Klemke.

The illustriously bearded, scruffy-looking, braces-clad DIY film-maker is beaming in, true to form, via Skype from his Denver home.

‘They are very cognisant of the fact they are talking to somebody in particular, talking to their friends on social media,’ he says. ‘People who are going to comment on that footage. I was talking to posterity but I was really talking to myself.’

The internet eventually gave Klemke potential for something he had never contemplated: an audience. In 2011, after uploading a reverse time-lapse compiling some of his lighter moments, the video went viral and Bate came knocking. Klemke nervously agreed to hand over his lifetime supply of footage.

Sam Klemke’s Time Machine, which premiered at Sundance 2015 and has been released digitally on demand, is a warts-and-all biopic quite unlike any other, fascinating as a time capsule but also exhaustively personal.


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