Synopsis by Mark Deming
A man eager to take English folk dancing to new and exciting places ends up in the last place he expected -- America -- in this mockumentary comedy. Derecq Twist (Charles Thomas Oldham) is a passionate enthusiast of Morris Dancing, a style of folk dancing that's been performed in Great Britain for centuries. Most devotees of Morris are committed to keeping the traditions of the dance alive, and Quentin Neely (Derek Jacobi), head of the Morris Circle that oversees competitive Morris dancing, intends to keep it that way, or else. But while Twist loves the classic Morris style and has devoted years to his dream of perfecting the most challenging of all Morris moves, the Treeple Hammer Damson, he also wants to bring fresh innovations to the dance in a variation he calls "New Morris." Neely is appalled by Twist's desire to bring Morris into the Twentieth Century (if not the Twenty-First), and bans Twist and his group from competition. A film producer (Aidan McArdle) making a documentary about Twist realizes he has no happy ending for his film, so he steps in and arranges for Twist to fly to California, where Miloslav Villandry (Greg Wise), a multi-billionaire software magnate, has developed a passion for Morris and bankrolls a West Coast Morris troupe, the OCM's. Twist is happy to find his new partners in California welcome his innovative spirit, and he also meets a beautiful woman, Sonja (Naomie Harris), with whom he finds love. But can a true Morris devotee be happy so far away from the dance's ancestral home? Morris: A Life With Bells On received its North American premiere at the 2009 Seattle International Film Festival.