Co-Sponsored by the Samek Gallery, Bucknell University
Embraced now as a cornerstone of LGBT filmmaking, this hybrid performance/vérité documentary by Oscar nominee Shirley Clarke startled viewers in 1967 with its innovative style and groundbreaking presentation of a gay African-American man. Clarke shot 12 hours of interview footage overnight at New York’s storied Hotel Chelsea to create this profile of an engaging, self-described hustler who called himself Jason Holliday. Poet Allen Ginsberg wrote, “Jason reaches brilliant moments in a total run-down of his soul history/an all-night monologue breaking the barrier between private humor and public discourse,” while Ingmar Bergman reportedly called it “the most extraordinary film I’ve seen in my life.” An Academy Film Archive and Milestone Films Restoration.
“Portrait of Jason is debated as an example of cinema verite because Clarke so tacitly indulges Holliday’s drama queen instincts, letting him turn a documentary into a one-man show. After a while you begin to wonder how much you’re being hustled here, and whether Holliday might not see Clarke the same way he does the rich whites he doted on as a houseboy: ‘They think you’re just a dumb, stupid little colored boy and you’re trying to get a few dollars, and they’re gonna use you as a joke. And it gets to be a joke sometime as to who’s using who.’ The blurred line between truth and fiction, between portrait and self-portrait, makes Jason a fascinating experience long after he and Clarke went their separate ways.” – J.R. Jones, The Chicago Reader
“Dancer, bride, runaway wife, radical filmmaker and pioneer — Shirley Clarke is one of the great undertold stories of American independent cinema. A woman working in a predominantly male world, a white director who turned her camera on black subjects, she was a Park Avenue rich girl who willed herself to become a dancer and a filmmaker, ran away to bohemia, hung out with the Beats and held to her own vision in triumph and defeat. She helped inspire a new film movement and made urgently vibrant work that blurs fiction and nonfiction, only to be marginalized, written out of histories and dismissed as a dilettante. She died in 1997 at 77 and is long overdue for a reappraisal.” – Manohla Dargis, New York Times
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