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Portrait of Jason

Monday, March 29

Presented by filmmaker Rodney Evans!

Filmmaker Rodney Evans (Brother to Brother) first saw this explosive landmark of nonfiction film when he was 16-years-old and looking for black, gay history anywhere he could find it. Filmed over the course of one night at the Chelsea Hotel, Shirley Clarke’s pioneering work is a portrait of Jason Holliday, a daringly flamboyant cabaret performer with charisma to spare, a knack for drama, and a life that’s provided him with plenty of stories to tell — about racism, homophobia, parental abuse, show business, drugs, sex, prostitution, the law, and whatever else he can think of while the cameras are rolling. Unavailable for many years, and screened now courtesy of MoMA, don’t miss the film Ingmar Bergman called “the most fascinating I’ve ever seen.”

Rodney Evans on PORTRAIT OF JASON and Shirley Clarke:

“I discovered PORTRAIT OF JASON at Kim’s Video on St. Mark’s Place when I was sixteen years old. As someone who was looking for black, gay history anywhere I could find it, I immediately knew this was the real deal, raw and unfiltered. After watching this film and her earlier 1963 film THE COOL WORLD, Shirley Clarke immediately became one of my favorite filmmakers. Both are films that I have kept going back to since first seeing them but PORTRAIT OF JASON has always been the more unsettling and disturbing of the two. Maybe it was the blurred boundary between Jason’s heartbreaking testimonials and masterful acting and the inability to distinguish between the two. The simple use of the rack focus throughout the film underscores that sense of endless exploration and searching for something that will always be unknowable. For Jason is a chameleon/hustler/shapeshifter/trickster/thespian/vagabond/dreamer/houseboy/tragicomic/sham/male bitch/stoned whore/consummate bullshit artist whose sleight of hand will always put him just outside your grasp. As the tension and exhaustion mount on both the part of the filmmakers and the central subject during the twelve hour, non-stop, marathon shoot it is clear that both Jason Holliday and Shirley Clarke have met their match. Everyone knows that they’re running out of time to settle the score within themselves and with each other. Each viewer assembles the truth from the scraps and clues that they’ve been given. A means to an end that leaves you flying without a net.”

Rodney Evans is the recipient of The Independent Feature Project’s Gordon Parks Award for Screenwriting for his screenplay, Brother to Brother, which premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, and was awarded the Special Jury Prize in Drama. The film had its European premiere at The Berlin International Film Festival in February 2004 and was nominated for 4 Independent Spirit Awards including Best First Film and Best First Screenplay. It aired nationally on the PBS Series, Independent Lens in June 2005. His autobiographical film, Close to Home, has been shown at over 30 film festivals throughout the world. He is currently developing his second narrative feature, Day Dream, starring Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) and Idris Elba (The Wire). The script is the first place winner of the 2008 Newfest Screenplay Competition. Evans is a Creative Capital Grantee and a Guggenheim Fellow for 2009.

  • Country USA
  • Rating NR
  • Year 1963
  • Running Time 105 minutes
  • Director Shirley Clarke