[Documentary Review] QT8: THE FIRST EIGHT

QT8: THE FIRST EIGHT, written and directed by Tara Wood, is a documentary that lauds the esteemed Quentin Tarantino. From Reservoir Dogs to The Hateful Eight, Wood brushes over his first eight films by breaking down the main themes that define his collection as well as the controversies that tarnished his reputation. With interviews of some of the most associated faces with Tarantino, like Samuel L Jackson, Jamie Foxx, Christopher Waltz, Michael Madsen, Lucy Liu, and Tim Roth, QT8 reads like a funeral where everyone is looking back at the good old days and sharing little anecdotes to paint us a picture of who the real Tarantino is. 

On one hand, this campfire-story-telling angle is what makes this film so great, as it gives us a fulfilling second-hand glimpse into what makes Tarantino an idiosyncratic legend.  The most salient message you get from the film is that Tarantino is a bona fide cinephile. He does not direct to make himself famous or get a check, but to fulfill a wonderfully deep desire to create and be part of his one true love: movies.  Throughout all the anecdotes, Tarantino, a former video store clerk, has impressed his actors with obscure movie references and an abounding knowledge of cinema. 

The atmosphere on Tarantino’s sets clearly is what makes the final product such a joy for us to watch. With cell phones banned and an overzealous Tarantino chanting with his actors, “One more take. Why? Because we love making movies!”, it’s easy to see how Tarantino has managed to build a loyal ensemble of actors who continue to come back throughout his works.

Wood breaks down the documentary into three chapters.  “Chapter One – The Revolution” covers Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, the two movies that not only put Tarantino on the map but alone made him an icon. He introduced movies that were unabashedly gratuitous where any character was fair game to die, at any time, in a pool of excessive blood. Roth even talks about how after wrapping Reservoir Dogs, he and Madsen hugged and got stuck together due to the amount of fake blood they were covered in. 

“Chapter Two – Badass Women and Genre Play” dives into Jackie Brown, Kill Bill, and Death Proof.  Regardless of what your opinion is on Tarantino, he has a gift in making women in his movies not only strong but center stage and equal. He shows that he can do more than just another Pulp Fiction while still sticking to his stylistic roots. 

“Chapter Three – Justice” wraps up with Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained, and The Hateful Eight. Tarantino takes another turn as he asks himself “What if?”. What if we did something different with Hitler? What if a slave got his revenge?  What if there was a movie of nothing but nefarious characters locked in one room – say a western Reservoir Dogs? It also does a nod to his ninth film, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, that is a “what if the right people were at the right place at the right time?”

Each chapter is littered with behind the scenes stories but they are soon overshadowed by the controversies that challenged Tarantino. Jackson and Foxx address the overuse of the N-word and defend Tarantino as an intentional and caring artist.  Wood plays the footage of Uma Thurman’s accident that led to permanent injuries and a damaged relationship between her and Tarantino. And, of course, there is the big controversy behind Harvey Weinstein and Tarantino’s close relationship. Tarantino claims to have known about Weinstein’s sexual abuses but failed to do anything about it. And although he apologizes and admits to his wrongdoing as a bystander it might be too little too late. 

Tarantino’s absence in the documentary helped frame it as an homage to his success but failed to give any depth or insight into the man behind the anecdotes.  To be fair it is called QT8: THE FIRST EIGHT and therefore should focus on the making of those films, as it does, but could still greatly benefit by his presence of Thurman for her take on Kill Bill.  Waiting for Tarantino to finish his tenth film (he says he won’t make more than ten) and then make a QT10 with his presence might have made a better documentary but ultimately, QT8: THE FIRST EIGHT is a delightfully eager and warranted toast to the auteur. QT8: THE FIRST EIGHT is now available digitally and across all VOD platforms. 

Natalie Hall
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