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Downtown 81

March 1, 2009

Jean-Michael Basquiat was a legendary neo-renaissance painter of the 1980's. He ran with the likes of Andy Warhol, Madonna and Julian Schnabel. Before he burst on the art scene, he starred in the film Downtown 81, Edo Bertoglio's recently recovered film about a starving artist whose eviction from his apartment leads him to meander through downtown New York. Downtown '81 featured rising artists and musicians including graffiti artists "Lee" Quinones and Fab Five Freddy, the bands Kid Creole and the Coconuts, James White and the Blacks, DNA, Tuxedo Moon, the Plastics, and rap legend Melle Mel. As Drexel University's contribution to the Philadelphia Free Library One Film Philadelphia program, we will screen Downtown 81 on March 9th at 6 PM in the University Crossings Large Screening Room (028 University Crossings), with a discussion to follow with Matt Palczynski, the Philadelphia Museum of Art's staff lecturer on Western Art, and Gregory Wolmart of our Film & Video program.

One Film Philadelphia is a citywide initiative of Philadelphia's Free Library which promotes film literacy and community building by choosing one film to be shown in dozen of screenings throughout the city over several weeks in February and March. This year's selection, BASQUIAT, is artist Julian Schnabel's brilliant portrait of graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat's rise and fall in the 1980's New York art scene. If you're interested in the contemporary art scene, great film making, the downtown music and fashion scene of the 1980's, then click here to learn where to see BASQUIAT with its great cast of Jeffrey Wright, David Bowie, Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, Benicio Del Toro, Courtney Love and Parker Posey.

Downtown 81 is considered by many to be as much a documentary as a drama, as it features Basquiat and many of his contemporaries in their own environment. Only 19-years old when Downtown 81 was filmed, Basquiat rocketed upon New York's art scene after emerging as a graffiti artist. The film was finished in 1981, but for legal reasons, it was not released until 2000 when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.
Dean Allen Sabinson was on the Steering and Selection committees of One Film Philadelphia.