Tonight, in honor of the DVD release of the documentary BIG JOY: The Adventures of James Broughton, the New York Public Library (NYPL) hosted a special celebration.
While filmmaker/poet/author/teacher James Broughton had a notable following among the avant-garde during his lifetime, today he is known to many only through the “warts and all” biopic, BIG JOY.
The film traces his life from his painful childhood in Modesto, California, through his career as an acclaimed underground filmmaker and poet, his tumultuous marriage and fatherhood, his sudden emergence (at the age of 61) as a gay man, his death at age 85 and his legacy.
Prolifically creative, Broughton made 23 experimental films, several of which won awards a film festivals, and wrote 23 books of prose and poetry. In his final years, Broughton earned a reputation as “the bard of the modern gay rights movement” and was known by his frequently-uttered slogans, “follow your own weird” and “when in doubt, twirl.”
I was born in the San Joaquin town of Modesto,
on the Tuolomne River of Stanislaus County
in the state of California.
My grandfathers were bankers, and so was my father.
But my mother wanted me to become a surgeon.
However, one night when I was 3 years old
I was awakened by a glittering stranger
who told me I was a poet and always would be
and never to fear being alone or being laughed at.
— James Broughton
The NYPL program included a reception, where it was possible to view some of Broughton’s surprisingly-charming short films, an introduction by cabaret star Justin Vivian Bond, and a discussion with experimental film experts Jon Gartenberg, Robert Haller, and Jim Hubbard.
The official poster