Let's start this with two definitions:

busk [buhsk] 1. Chiefly British. to entertain by dancing, singing, or reciting on the street or in a public place.

documentary [dok-yuh-men-tuh-ree, -tree] 1. Movies, television. Based on or re-creating an actual event, era, life story, etc., that purports to be factually accurate and contains no fictional elements.

Busking Turf Wars is an aesthetically pleasing look at the world of musical busking in the City of Leeds in the center of the United Kingdom. The background of an urban English city adds to the grit and roughness of busking as an occupation, a dream, a passion.

The film follows Steven Lockmoore, a long-haired, pimple-faced, obsessed, grungy, guitar-playing busker. It is a believable representation of the rough and tumble scrabble of working the streets for a living.

header-buskingturfwars Steve from Busking Turf Wars. (Image from the film's website)

Steve is played by Christy Coysh, which technically makes this a movie rather than a documentary, but the “feel” is there and the fact does not detract from the film. Steve lives his life to play, for the most part, improvised music. His story is told through self narration, with a somewhat melancholy, self deprecating tone. The “war” really seems incidental to the portrayal of busking.

Steve is childishly full of himself and is convinced he is the ultimate busker. His guitar playing is rudimentary, his vocals almost difficult to listen to, but he is a likable character. Steve has claimed an intersection of mid-town Leeds and is territorial in maintaining “his” space. The “war” begins with a more talented busker attempting to gain the attention of the film crew tailing Steve, followed by the interloper taking over Steve's intersection.

Being the diva he is, Steve is going to have none of that and the war begins with challenging his nemesis to a “busk-off”. Just before the challenge, Steve faces reality with a brief interaction with the father of an ex-girlfriend. He suddenly rethinks his profession, but cockily pursues the battle.

A still from Busking Turf Wars. (Image from the film's website) A still from Busking Turf Wars. (Image from the film's website)

The busk-off does not go well for Steve and ends with him walking away and disappearing for six months.

During his time off the streets, Steve goes corporate, getting a job as an assistant manager at an International Market. For a while he claims to be content, happy and where he is supposed to be. That is short lived. When a friend brings in a flyer about a huge busking completion, Steve abruptly quits his job and heads back to the streets with a brand new national guitar in hand.

I won't give away the ending, but I will recommend seeing this film for its gritty look at an unfamiliar way of life.

Busking Turf Wars runs 73 minutes and will be shown Friday, February 19 at 10:15 p.m. as part of Thin Line Film Festival. To purchase tickets at the online box office, click here.