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A collaboration between filmmaker Jem Cohen and the Washington D.C. band Fugazi, covering the 10 year period of 1987-1996. Far from a traditional documentary, this is a musical document; a ... See full summary »
This film take you on a journey into a creative genius' struggle with life. Daniel Johnston recorded his entire life on cassette tape and his early life on film. Later he appeared on MTV, and in venues in Austin, TX on film and video. These provide the film-maker with a wide array of media for telling this story.
Jeff Feuerzeig weaves this material seamlessly into what is one of the most emotionally wrenching films I've seen in the last year and one of my favorite documentaries ever. It is hard to compare this film with documentaries like those of Michael Moore which are comedic and topical, or those of Errol Morris, which tend to focus on issues and facts. This documentary brings emotional threads and creativity into play in a way that dissolves the usual harsh contrast between a story and it's telling. You forget you are watching a documentary film, and become immersed in Daniel's life. Daniel's effect on those around him is interwoven with his own recordings. His family and friend are there to add to his story to show how his life is reflected upon them. Feuerzeig use of Daniel's parents narrative is simply masterful - it provides important information, and at the same time illustrates the the emotional turmoil his illness causes in the lives of those that love him. Daniel's family is portrayed from the early period of his illness when they have no idea what mental illness really means, to the present time when they become his supporters and advocates. Eventually, family and friend's are shown coming to terms with Daniel's mental illness, and experience their own emotional growth as well.
It deservedly won the Directors Award at Sundance 2005, and I think it would have won the audience award if it had a different play schedule.
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