Presented by the Northwest Chicago Film Society, co-presented with Reeling and Black Cinema House. Chicago restoration premiere.
The Northwest Chicago Film Society exists to promote the preservation of film in context. Films capture the past uniquely. They hold the stories told by feature films, but also the stories of the industries that produced them, the places where they were exhibited, and the people who watched them. We believe that all of this history–not just of film, but of 20th century industry, labor, recreation, and culture–is more intelligible when it’s grounded in unsimulated experience: seeing a film in a theater, with an audience, and projected from film stock.
This screening was originally scheduled to screen at the Portage Theatre at 7:30pm but has been rescheduled and moved due to unforeseen circumstances.
Armed with an Éclair 16mm camera and the most basic sound and lighting equipment, Shirley Clarke and her small crew holed up in her Chelsea Hotel apartment for twelve hours with hustler, cabaret mainstay, and seasoned raconteur Jason Holliday. They emerged with some kind of masterpiece.
Before the camera, Holliday (né Aaron Payne of Trenton, New Jersey) spins the most rambunctious autobiography imaginable. Mixing treasured routines, dirty jokes, guilt-free confessions, and bullshit revelations, Holliday lies through his teeth to create the performance of a lifetime.
Newly restored by Milestone Films and the Academy Film Archive after an exhaustive search for the best surviving materials and a highly publicized Kickstarter campaign, Portrait of Jason remains an essential document of one queer, black man’s adventures in crazy, pre-Stonewall America.