Strikingly intimate, and courageously raw, Have You Seen the Listers? offers interesting insight into the life of world renowned street artist Anthony Lister.
In the hands of director Eddie Martin, the tale is told with unflinching honesty. Martin has a knack for capturing the essence of his underdog subjects – subjects previously including the likes of skater Tas Pappas and graffiti artist Justin Hughes – and presenting it in such a way that makes it impossible for audiences not to empathise. It’s no easy task; scenes of a teenaged Lister high on acid at his school formal, or forcing his young family to squat in a tiny Sydney apartment might leave viewers feeling less than sympathetic about what happens to Lister as the film progresses, if not for Martin’s deft touch.
The film is driven by Lister’s struggle for connection. Initially focused on the troubles he found honing his skills in his culturally barren hometown of Brisbane, Have You Seen the Listers? quickly shifts attention to his family, and keeps it there for most of its run time. While it does eventually spend some time reflecting on Lister’s fight against charges of wilful damage in January of 2016, it still does so in the context of his home life. It’s an interesting decision, but this is where the film’s heart lies.
Thanks to Lister’s extensive personal video collection, audiences are offered a retroactively real time look at the challenges that Lister’s rise to fame brought upon his wife and three children. It begs the question: what price is too high in the pursuit of passion? As This is Mayhem offered a warning to rising sport stars, Have You Seen the Listers? challenges those who put their desires before all else, making it a worthwhile watch even for those who have no interest in Lister’s work.
Where the documentary stumbles is in its presentation of Lister’s achievements. Internationally celebrated for his blend of high and low brow art, as well as his range of collaborations with the likes of Hermès, Vogue, and Mercedes Benz, it was the demand for his talent and the ego that spawned from this demand that ultimately resulted in his familial troubles. Martin glances over them, as if expecting that anyone who watches the film already knows about them. He may be right, but without hearing Lister’s perspective on his success, we’re offered no real context for why it took him so long to realise his family was falling apart.
The ending of the film – an emotional sequence from which stems the title – feels like a turning point in both Lister’s personal and professional lives. I have a strong feeling that in a decade’s time, we will be able to look back and say that 2017 took one of Australia’s best ever artists to a whole new level. Time will tell.