This summer sees the long-awaited appearance of a new film by Sara Driver, whose small but extraordinary body of work – the subject of a retrospective here at Anthology in 2012 – includes two of the finest, if still under-recognized, independent films of the 1980s: YOU ARE NOT I (1983) and SLEEPWALK (1986). Though Driver directed one more feature in 1993 (WHEN PIGS FLY), as well as a short documentary about the Bowery for French TV the following year, and has been a major catalyzing force as a producer (both formally and informally) in the realm of NYC culture for decades, her own voice and vision have been sadly absent from our screens in recent years. Happily that’s about to change, with the release of BOOM FOR REAL: THE LATE TEENAGE YEARS OF JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT.
A documentary that is ostensibly about the pre-stardom years of the celebrated artist, BOOM FOR REAL is a profoundly refreshing film insofar as it chooses to forego the Solitary Genius approach of most hagiographic biographies and instead paints a panoramic and deeply knowledgeable portrait of a whole artistic and cultural community – downtown NYC in the 1970s & 80s – that was teeming with creativity, diverse expression, and boundless energy. Focusing intently on the years before he became a household name, BOOM FOR REAL delves into the lives and work of a wide range of downtown figures, both celebrated and under-celebrated – from Jim Jarmusch, Luc Sante, and Fab 5 Freddy, to Vivienne Dick, Coleen Fitzgibbon, Tessa Hughes-Freeland, Charlie Ahearn, and many others. At times Basquiat becomes almost a background figure as Driver reveals the dense web of relationships, the mutually-reinforcing experimentation, and the sheer adventurousness that someone like Basquiat could emerge from.
To celebrate the release of BOOM FOR REAL – which opens on May 11 courtesy of Magnolia Pictures – and in concert with a related exhibition at Howl Arts, Anthology presents this two-part film series. Part 1 brings together a selection of films about or involving Basquiat, as well as works that came out of the same era and milieu. For Part 2, we asked various participants in BOOM FOR REAL to guest-select films from the period that they feel have been overlooked, or simply films that influenced their own work. Most of these participants will be here in person to present their selections, which together comprise a rich and surprising filmic survey of an era and the cultural mix that went into it – essentially a film-series-analogue to Driver’s film.
Very special thanks to Sara Driver and all the guest curators, and to Carmen Accaputo (Cineteca di Bologna); Dee D. Bache; Brian Belovarac (Janus Films); Cassie Blake (Academy Film Archive); Livia Bloom (Icarus Films); Emilie Cauquy (Cinémathèque Française); Chris Chouinard (Park Circus); Sebastian del Castillo (AGFA); Eric Di Bernardo (Rialto Pictures); Ivan Galietti; Justine Henzell; Cherry Kaoru Hulsey (Blue Sun Film Co.); Dave Jennings (Sony Pictures); Anne Kennedy (Art and Commerce); Manfred Kirchheimer; David Koh (Arthouse Films); Alice Lea (LUX); Spike Lee; Kristie Nakamura (WB); Gina Nanni; Jacob Perlin (Film Desk); Hannah Prouse & Rod Rhule (BFI); Aaron Saxe (Celestial Pictures); MM Serra (Film-Makers’ Coop); Lysanne Thibodeau; Hannah Townsend (Wylie Agency); Barbara Ulrich; Todd Weiner & Steven Hill (UCLA); and Michael Zilkha.