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‘Mad Tiger’ Probes Secret World Of Peelander-Z


Mad Tiger is a new documentary film from directors Jonathan Yi and Michael Haertlein. The story follows the Japanese band Peelander-Z and what happens when one of the members, Red, decides he’s going to leave and how that decision changes his friendship with his bandmate, Yellow. Yi had been friendly with the band for several years before beginning work on the film and says that it was a video that Red made about his imminent departure that brought Mad Tiger to life.

“When I saw that Red was leaving the band, I saw that they had posted a very strange video on YouTube about how he was going to go become a teacher at Ninja High School,” Yi recalls. He soon called Haertlein and discussed the possibility of making a film about Red’s exit. “It was just a crazy point for them to do that. It’s something we never thought would happen.”

Ultimately, Mad Tiger isn’t just another documentary about a critical moment in the life of a rock band. It’s the story of a friendship going through a significant change. In one scene, Yellow confronts Red, who by then has left the band, and confronts him about some unreturned phone calls.

“To see those interactions, I realized that they really are like anybody else,” Yi says. “You spend enough time doing something creatively with somebody there are problems, and they are the closest people to each other. When Yellow was in a moment of distress, he went to find his best friend. He does something I think a lot of people do: You take out your anger and aggression on the people closest to you and the people closest to you suffer because you’re in a bad state of mind.”

Haertlein adds, “It’s one of those scenes that’s just painful because I think we’ve all been there. You can see the love behind Yellow’s anger. It’s just hard to watch, unfortunately.”

Audience members might also note several moments in the film where the band members ask if a revelation they’ve just made is going to be used in the final cut. The directors left those moments in, believing that it shows the extent to which Yellow, in particular, tries to control the perception that outsiders have of his band.

“We had to remind them many times, throughout making the film, that we were just going to show everything to show that real story,” says Yi. “They were on board with it, but they had to be reminded and we decided to keep those moments in the film, where they’re hesitant about it because it just shows how much they’re protecting the fantasy of the world and how much they try to separate the real situation, the real life from this fantasy that they’ve built up in their heads that was crumbling at the time.

“Sometimes we include Yellow asking for us to keep something out as a way of showing the extreme level of control that he tries to exert over absolutely everything in his life, including the documentary that we were shooting with him,” Haertlein says. “It’s part of him fabricating this fantasy world and, also, with some of his behavior, that’s maybe regrettable. We wanted to show him requesting to keep it out as a way of showing that he does have remorse for these things. He’s not some kind of abusive monster that has no regard for people’s feelings.”

Mad Tiger screens Thursday evening at the Wichita Orpheum as part of the Tallgrass Film Festival.


Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin.

To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.