When a few choice words were made public from the outtakes of a Winnebago commercial, actor Jack Rebney lost his job. With his deep hatred for corporate America, Rebney might well have been pleased at his dismissal from Winnebago and may even have forgotten all about the video that got him fired in the first place.
While initially passed along in the format of duplicated VHS cassettes, with the arrival of YouTube Rebney’s footage made him one of the first unwitting celebrities for a new generation, a star of the so-called “viral video.” Rebney’s unrestrained anger and his precise delivery of curse words made him an instant hit with thousands, some of whom dubbed him “the angriest man in the world.”
Rebney’s unique way with language held a particularly enigmatic aspect for director Ben Steinbauer, a longtime fan of found footage. Winnebago Man begins when Steinbauer decides Rebney would make the ideal subject for a documentary. There was only one problem: no one knew where he was, including the founders of the official Found Footage Festival, Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher, who call him the “Holy Grail of stars to meet.”
Winnebago Man documents the filmmaker’s adventure to find Rebney and the difficulties he encounters trying to understand an aging recluse, nearly out of touch with modern society.
The movie twists and turns in unexpected directions and ultimately only succeeds in part in cracking through Rebney’s crusty, complex persona.
In a way, Rebney’s struggles memorizing his Winnebago script acts as a microcosm for his larger issues with the world.
“I’ve got to read it again because my mind is just a piece of shit this morning,” laments Rebney in his famous outtakes.
But later this sentiment is expanded and Rebney speaks about the tremendous adversity in the world and his concerns for America. His confusion and frustration, put into rather precise language, eventually serve to connect him with a group of people from a generation he thought was totally apart from him.