Big Joy, the James Broughton documentary, coming to the Walker August 22


Big Joy is coming to the Twin Cities — seriously, Big Joy, the documentary. And the August 22 screening of Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton at the Walker is a joyous event.

Big Joy is the story of poet and filmmaker Broughton produced by Stephen Silha whose Minnesota roots run deep. The feature-length film captures the spirit of the enigmatic Broughton (1913-1999), known for personal mantra “follow your weird” – which he did with great aplomb.

To put it mildly, Broughton engaged in and relished life! In his autobiography Broughton described a time when, as a toddler, his life was transformed by a visit from his muse Hermy who assured him that he would always be a poet, “even if I tried not to be.” The Muse also advised Broughton that “despite what I might hear to the contrary the world was not a miserable prison, it was a playground for a nonstop tournament between stupidity and imagination. If I followed the game sharply enough, I could be a useful spokesman for Big Joy.”(Coming Unbuttoned, 1933)

Writing in the Bright Lights Film Journal critic Gary Morris offers a gentle caveat: “Broughton is simply too individual for categorization, even when the evidence for labeling him this or that is overwhelming.” Morris suggests that Broughton be seen as a “ poet, avant-garde film artist, and Dionysian gay sage.”

Not one to hold back, Broughton expressed his passion in film, poetry and his own lifestyle. He created 23 films and an equal number of books of poetry. He was a founding member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a queer service organization, and a leader of the Radical Faeries, a counter-cultural movement that advocated spirituality as a way to redefine gay identity. In recognition of his open lifestyle Broughton was grand marshal of the San Francisco Pride Festival in 1988.

Broughton played a significant role in creating some of this country’s most famous movements, including the Beats. “Adventure, not predicament” shaped Broughton’s life choices.

Stephen Silha who is both producer and promoter of the documentary, is a journalist and filmmaker who lives now in Port Vachon, Washington. And yes, he is a member of the Minneapolis family. He is the son of Otto Silha, well known as Chair of the Board of Cowles Media and generous benefactor with his wife Helen of the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law and the University of Minnesota. Like his parents and Broughton, Stephen Silha is a “big thinker.”

Big Joy has been on tour at festivals including Tribeca, South x Southwest, the Seattle International, Hong Kong and Florida Film Festivals..

Let this be early notice of what promises to be a major community event. Word has it that Rain Taxi is planning a Big Joy reading/writing event before the screening at the Walker Cafe. There will be more.

For those who are unfamiliar with the films and poetry of James Broughton, there is much to learn about Broughton and about the film. The good news – time and resources are on the side of the learner. Some portals to the wonderful world of weird adventure: