2. Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (directed by Tamra Davis, 2010)
Jean-Michel Basquiat was one of the most innovative and genius painters of the late 20th century. He was the son of a Haitian and Puerto Rican living in Brooklyn, but ran away as a teenager to live on the streets of New York City. He first gained notoriety from his strange brand of graffiti including short sentences tagged as SAMO. Then he began to showcase his paintings with the help of many admirers that included painters, art dealers, critics, and the hip-elite of the 80’s that saw his talent. He rose to international fame through his creative genius, but was destroyed by the pressures and consequences of fame.
Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child is a documentary that explores Basquiat’s short life through interviews of those that were around him. The backbone of the documentary is an interview Tamra Davis shot with Jean-Michel Basquiat in 1986 that she put away in a drawer after his death. In the interview footage from Davis, Basquiat was already on the downturn of being beaten by fame and the paranoia that came with it. The documentary shows the same situation that has been seen in writers, artist, musicians, and actors that rise to insurmountable levels of fame, only to crumble underneath the pressure that comes with stardom. An artist needs a proper foundation that will provide the necessary tools to deal with fame and those attempting to take advantage of you and the hunger of money and the temptation of alcohol and drugs. Basquiat was extremely talented, painting his inner world dictated by the subconsciousness, memories, observations, and anything that he thought had importance. He was intelligent, he was innovative, he was a painter dedicated to the brush and this documentary generously shows all of this while attempting to decipher some of the symbols and words seen throughout his work.
The only complaint is the audio in some of the interviews, appearing roughly recorded with much noise in the background. But otherwise, Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child is a perfect introduction to the painter and the mystical nature of his work told by those that knew him. I would also recommend watching Basquiat, the 1996 biopic directed by Julian Schnabel. With such an immense talent and perspective, it is a great shame to the world that Jean-Michel Basquiat died at twenty-seven years old and wasn’t able to live a long, healthy life while creating more masterpieces.
( This film is available for streaming on Netflix.)