Portrait of the Artist
Portrait of the Artist is pretty much a sub genre of the New Zealand Film Festival’s Framing Reality section. It’s essentially a collection of documentaries focusing on the artistic, and we’ve found a couple of gems that we think you really should see!
Vik Muniz is a Brazilian artist known internationally for composing portraits from such materials as sugar and chocolate syrup and, now, in this totally engaging, unpredictable film, trash. The Brooklyn-based photographer grew up poor and we meet him as he heads home to undertake a series based at Rio de Janeiro’s Jardim Gramacho, one of the world’s largest garbage dumps. His subjects are the catadores who pick through the trash to gather, sort and sell recyclables. The men and women we meet are an inspiring bunch of individuals: cheerful, thoughtful, energetic, and as deserving as any historical figure of the celebration (not to say outright lionisation) that a gigantic Muniz portrait confers on them. Muniz, whose art commands high sale prices, sells work in the series to benefit their Garbage Pickers Association. Brit documentarian Lucy Walker’s film is packed with so much evidence that there’s happiness and dignity at the bottom of the heap that it’s disconcerting. It’s joyful, salutary and troubling all at the same time. – NZFF
WHY WASTE LAND?
If you have to ask why, you obviously haven’t watched the trailer. This is art at it’s truest form. To quote Petrus van der Velden, “Colour is Light, Light is Love, Love is God” And what stronger love than to work along side the poorest people, helping to create art that can then be sold, not only providing awareness, but putting the revenue from the sales back into the community that helped create the art. This could quite possibly be one of the highlights of the whole festival.
JEAN-MICHL BASQUIATE: THE RADIANT CHILD
Painter Jean-Michel Basquiat was a 21-year-old graffiti artist and art world party boy when he became a star, catapulted from Bohemian poverty to multimillionaire in little more than a year. Filmmaker Tamra Davis was a pal and the treasure at the heart of her tender, informative documentary is a conversation she shot with him, relaxed and smiling, intimate and playful at the height of his career. -NZFF
“Tamra Davis’ Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child spins out from an extended interview Davis videotaped in 1986, two years before Basquiat’s death. Like Banksy, Basquiat’s roots were in graffiti, but during his tragically short career, he became a prodigious and prolific painter – indeed the most brilliant painter of the last quarter of the 20th century. Davis, who was a close friend, has collected fascinating footage of the artist at work, and this, together with the interview material and a fragmented commentary by critics and curators, makes for a documentary that is both moving and illuminating.” -Amy Taubin, Film Comment
WHY THE RADIANT CHILD?
The guy is freaking awesome – take a look at his art, it’s quirky yet brilliant. His graffiti roots show through in his un-polished painting style, but the results are magical. Add to his rags to riches story, the heart wrenching fact that he died two years after finding fame and fortune, and you have the essential human tragedy to complete the picture.