The Devil and Daniel Johnston
Wednesday, September 21, 2011 – 7:30pm
USA 2005. Director: Jeff Feuerzeig
David Bowie, Tom Waits, Sonic Youth, Beck, Matt Groening, the late Kurt Cobain, and an ever-growing cult audience are just some of the fans of eccentric indie-rock singer-songwriter and cartoonist Daniel Johnston. An exemplar of brilliance and madness going hand in hand, Johnston (who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder) has had a life marked by wild fluctuations, numerous downward spirals, and periodic respites from his severe mental illness. Director Jeff Feuerzeig won a well-deserved Best Director award at Sundance in 2006 for his long-in-the-making The Devil and Daniel Johnston, an illuminating chronicle of Johnston’s origins, rise to fame, disastrous breakdowns, paranoid delusions, painful redemption, and eventual elevation to unlikely living-legend status. The film artfully melds recent footage, vintage performances, home movies, and dozens of recorded audiotapes from Johnston’s life. Testimony from supportive friends and a deeply committed family adds a rich layer to Johnston’s personal history, but his poetic songs tell their own passionate, haunting, and truly unforgettable story. Now in his early 50s, Johnston has recorded over 20 full-length albums and grown into a prolific and internationally acclaimed visual artist. “When you come to Sundance, it’s with the hope of seeing a film like The Devil and Daniel Johnston, a near-brilliant portrait of a tortured, artistic genius” (Film Threat). Colour, 35mm. 110 mins.
Post-screening discussion with Luke Meat, an autodidact music nerd, DJ, and journalist who has a deep love for obscure audio. He was Music Coordinator at CiTR 101.9 FM for the last decade.
Moderated by Dr. Harry Karlinsky, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia.
“The documentary holds no illusions about insanity as a career move; there’s a whiff of the freak show in Johnston’s latter-day concerts but never in Feuerzeig’s approach.”
Village Voice | full review
“‘Devil’ leads us into that dark, uncharted valley where evil, genius, divine inspiration, insanity — and other unfathomable mysteries — commingle.”
The Washington Post | full review
“There is a line that sometimes runs between genius and madness, sometimes encircles them.”
Chicago Sun-Times | full review