Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton

Years before the Beats arrived in San Francisco, the city exploded with artistic expressions—painting, theatre, film and poetry. At its centre was the groundbreaking filmmaker and poet James Broughton. Big Joy explores Broughton’s passionate embrace of a life of pansexual transcendence and a fiercely independent mantra: ‘follow your own weird.’ His remarkable story spans the post-war San Francisco renaissance, his influence on the Beat generation, escape the Europe during the McCarthy years, a lifetime of acclaim for his joyous experimental films and poetry celebrating the human body, finding his soulmate at 61, and finally his ascendancy as a revered bard of sexual liberation. [from the Cork International Film Festival]


USA, 2013, 82 Minute Running Time

The world scandalized James Broughton, a sartorial-minded pre-Beat filmmaker and poet, so he, in turn, scandalized it. In “Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton”, directors Eric Slade and Stephen Silha detail Broughton’s courage and impertinence in rejecting the hetero-normative life of the ‘50s onward with its emphasis on frenetic consumerism and careerism.

He embraced the avant-garde movement of the early 20th century by erasing the boundaries between poetry and cinema, thereby creating a new aesthetic in film. Slade and Silha capture the many personalities – like Pauline Kael, doyenne of the arts, with whom he had a child, and Anna Halprin, dancer and choreographer – that orbited Broughton throughout his life.

Broughton’s performative films heavily influenced the “happenings” of the 1960s and, later, the gay liberation movement of the 1970s. Their common denominator is the interplay of humor, play, and the id imbued with a theatrical dimension. His 1967 effervescent film The Bed is a landmark for its exploration of sexuality in all its forms. Broughton erased the division between life and art, philosophy and practice, poetry and cinema, creating a new idiom that defied categorization.

DIRECTORS: Dawn Logsdon, Stephen Silha, Eric Slade
Producer: Max St. Romain
Editor: Dawn Logsdon, Kyung Lee
Cinematographer: Ian Hinkle, Art Adams
Music: Evan Schiller, Jami Sieber
Principal Cast: Anna Halprin, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Armistead Maupin, George Kuchar, Jack Foley, Alex Gildzen, Keith Hennessy, Joel Singer

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