Preview by: Jack Foley
WHO is Daniel Johnston, you may ask?
A self-taught musician and songwriter, Johnston is often hailed
as being an Outsider artist, having achieved a cultish renown
for his primitive, unimpeachably sincere music.
He commands a dedicated following among fellow musicians, numbering
among his fans the likes of Sonic Youth, David Bowie and the late
Kurt Cobain, while his songs have been covered by acts such as
Half Japanese, Tom Waits and Teenage Fanclub.
Film fans may be able to glean more about this artist if they
catch The Devil and Daniel Johnson, an intimate documentary that
won the directors' award at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.
It is also playing at the Edinburgh Film Festival as well as
the upcoming Raindance Film Festival, where it promises to be
among the most talked-about documentaries on show.
Daniel Johnston first came to attention in 1985, roaming the
streets of Austin, Texas, handing out home-made cassettes of his
songs, seemingly at random.
From the outset, he was different,
not so much concerned with recognition as an artist, but craving
the limelight and the kind of glory and adulation enjoyed by his
idols, The Beatles.
Sadly, he also suffers from mental illness which caused him to
alternate between periods of normalcy and mania. His best moments
inevitably serve as precursors to his worst.
Jeff Feuerzeig's film has been praised for the way in which it
respectfully deals with its subject matter, refusing to become
exploitative or overly flashy.
It paints a vivid picture of a remarkable person that has deservedly
garnered acclaim on the festival circuit.
Feuerzeig, himself, is quoted as saying: "With literally
every key moment of Daniel Johnston’s life and every emotion
he felt available to me, I was able to assemble a deeply personal
and satisfying narrative that displays Daniel’s essence
in all its naked glory.
"My journey of discovery was to take a ride on the fragile
precipice of madness and genius, and Daniel supplied me with the
tools to take us there. It was a privilege to have gotten so close
to a fire that burns so intensely."
Related story: Raindance
2005 line-up unveiled