By Guest Contributor Rob Fields, cross-posted from Bold As Love
Tamra Davis’ film Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child is an affecting documentary on the rise and fall of the artworld superstar. Davis was a friend of Basquiat’s who started filming interviews with him as their friendship developed. She’d amassed a significant amount of footage by the time of his death but, as she says, she put the film in a drawer and didn’t think about it for many years. What you get is wonderful interview footage of with Basquiat, as well as many of the people he was close to in those years of his ascent and decline. And, the film is well worth seeing, if only for the amount of his work that is shown.
But I don’t think there’s ever a way to watch a film about Jean-Michel Basquiat and not feel that impending sense of dread. I certainly remember feeling that while watching Jeffrey Wright in Julian Schnabel’s biopic, and I definitely felt it while watching one, too. The whole experience of watching the film, for me, is poignant. Usually, it’s because we recognize potential that is smothered by death at a young age. In this case, it’s watching him produce so much of his prodigious body of work and wanting him to be around to enjoy the acclaim that really followed him after his death that, yet again, I found myself hoping against reason that somehow this story would turn out differently and he wouldn’t be dead by age 27.