In celebration of 50 years of LGBTQ/SGL black Americans in cinema, Black Cinema House and the Chicago Center for H.I.V Elimination present Portrait of Jason, the provocative, ground-breaking 1967 film that influenced generations of queer cinema.
For twelve hours over the course of an evening, director Shirley Clarke and her friends interviewed Jason Holliday about his life, his loves, his work and his beliefs. Jason, a 33-year-old hustler dreaming of a career as a nightclub entertainer, dazzles the audience with stories of confrontations with his family growing up in Trenton, the orgies he attended, and the hustling that formed the pattern of his life as a black, gay man. Edited to an hour and 45 minutes, Jason owns the screen, and makes probably as candid a self-revelation as has been known in the history of motion pictures or literature. And yet, how much is true and how much is a performance? Clarke’s films were always exploring the border between cinema verité and fiction — and Portrait of Jason may well be her masterpiece.
Daring, surprising and truly gripping, Portrait of Jason was one of the first LGBT films to be taken seriously by general audiences. It remains one of the most remarkable films of American independent filmmaking, and was added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 2015.
Screening followed by discussion moderated by Jacqueline Stewart (professor, UChicago Cinema & Media Studies; curator, Black Cinema House) with Yvonne Welbon (filmmaker, producer, screenwriter and archivist of films by African American women directors), Viktor l. Ewing Givens (interdisciplinary found object performance artist) and Adam McMath (board member and director of programming, Black Alphabet Film Festival).
Portrait of Jason was preserved by the Academy Film Archive with funding by the Academy Film Archive, Milestone Films, the Toronto International Film Festival and a Kickstarter campaign.
(Shirley Clarke, 1967, 105 min)