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Documentary 'Beard Club' chronicles culture of facial hair
6 p.m. Friday
Lee Burrows Center for the Arts, 630 E St., Marysville
A beard can say a lot about a man.
Bay Area filmmaker Laura J. Lukitsch's documentary "Beard Club" explores this notion, with hirsute men from around the world discussing how they came to have whiskers.
The Yuba-Sutter Regional Arts Council and the Punjabi American Heritage Society will screen "Beard Club" on Friday.
Yuba City doctor Jasbir Kang is among the bearded men Lukitsch interviewed for the film. "I think it's a funny, interesting movie," Kang said. "There are cultural reasons and social reasons for why a man grows a beard. And some people just want to look cool."
"It's a nice introduction to that culture," said Marika Garcia, executive director for the Yuba-Sutter Regional Arts Council.
Lukitsch began making the film about nine years ago. While traveling cross-country to her younger sister's wedding, she stumbled upon some bearded Germans. She filmed them and showed the footage to people at the wedding.
"My brother in law and others who saw (the footage) were curious about it," she said. "It made me think about doing a documentary on facial hair."
Her original intent was to follow a team of German and American beard competitors in the World Beard and Mustache Competition in Germany, Lukitsch said. However, she soon realized her film's scope was too narrow and wouldn't cover aspects such as how beards relate to gender, culture and identity, which interested her the most.
In making the film, Lukitsch discovered that a story usually follows every beard. "They shared their own stories of wearing it and the anguish of having to shave it off for a job," she said. "Some of the stories they tell about their beards are really personal stories about their lives."
Interviewing bearded men also enlightened her to just how many varieties of facial hair a man can have.
"There are many different types of beards out there, and there are many reasons for wearing them," she said. "But when you look deeper, you find someone's personal story. Asking them about their beard can reveal some interesting personal stories."
Filming the documentary also led her to Kang. Sikhs are supposed to keep their hair unshorn, Kang said. "It's a symbol of nature — it's something that God has given you. It helps you live in tune with nature and with what you believe."
What stood out the most for Lukitsch about Kang is a story he tells in the documentary about how patients reacted to his beard, she said.
"He said he once treated a patient in the emergency room, but the patient didn't want to deal with him because of his beard. But he persisted and eventually won her over. And she and her family are still his patients today."
But no documentary about beards would be complete without interviewing one of the most famous bearded men in music and possibly the world: Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top.
"He was very sweet," Lukitsch said. "He said they grew them because they were too lazy to shave them."
The screening on Friday is a benefit screening to help pay the costs to complete the film. There is no cost for admission, but donations will be accepted.
Once complete, Lukitsch plans to try selling the film to public broadcasting and release it on DVD.
"It's going to be a nice event," Garcia said. "We're lucky to be able to screen it."
"It's a fun, heartwarming film," Lukitsch said. "It runs about 57 minutes and there will be a Q and A session after the screening."
"The bottom line is that it's thought-provoking and it's not just for one religion or gender," Kang said. "It's a movie for all people — not just for people who have beards. ... You'll walk away having learned something."