MOVIES JUNE 22, 2015 ISSUE
Bodies of Work
Great independent filmmakers and actors on display at BAM.
BY RICHARD BRODY
The most important recent advances in independent filmmaking can be found in the realm of performance, as seen in the latest edition of BAMcinemaFest (June 17-28). This annual series reliably unearths hidden treasures, many produced on microbudgets by fledgling filmmakers, and screens them with eagerly anticipated new works by acclaimed young directors.
In one of this year’s finest offerings, Stephen Winter goes behind the scenes of a classic independent film—Shirley Clarke’s “Portrait of Jason”—with “Jason and Shirley” (screening June 18), an ingeniously conceived and acted docudrama about the night, in 1966, when Clarke filmed Jason Holliday, a gay black hustler and aspiring cabaret artist, in her room in the Chelsea Hotel. Winter convened a prominent artist and a novelist—Jack Waters and Sarah Schulman—to play Holliday and Clarke, and to co-write the script with him. The result, filmed like an archival video, is a meticulously detailed imagining of the shoot, especially in Waters’s uncanny, electrifying impersonation of Holliday, as well as a complex and anguished view of the power relations, societal conflicts, and cruel sacrifices from which Clarke’s film arose.