Despite his aviation feats never getting their historical credit – if indeed they happened at all – there’s a wonderful touch of the unassuming, innovative Kiwi battler to hopeful pilot Richard Pearse, who many reckon beat the Wright brothers to the first successful manned flight. Who better to follow then, as he attempts to prove the airworthiness of Pearse’s shed-built flying contraption, than the subject of Will It Fly?, retired automotive engineer Ivan Mudrovcich, a man cut from the same cloth?
Epitomising the ethos of suburban garage engineers the world over, albeit with a Kiwi twist, Mudrovcich has a blue streak to his vocabulary that damn near comes across as Winnebago Man set at MOTAT and will prevent this being an educational resource for youngsters with its constant refrain of ‘bloody’, ‘bastard’ and ‘bitch’. Yep, it’s a personality that’ll be familiar to anyone who’s spent time with fellows who embody our number eight mentality.
Less a historical film about Pearse than an intimate portrait of Mudrovcich, the mundane periods of his quest end up saying as much about the man as the milestones he hits along the way. That’s not to say that Will It Fly? doesn’t get around to answering the question posed in its title, but there’s more to director Wayne Johnson’s documentary than a simple yes or no answer. At two hours in length,Will It Fly? probably runs longer than it needs to, but nevertheless captures a Kiwi personality archetype, and in doing so stretches its appeal beyond the presumably small pool of New Zealand aviation enthusiasts out there.