The Devil and Daniel Johnston

Release date:March 31, 2006
(NY, LA)

Studio:Sony Classics

Director:Jeff Feuerzeig

MPAA Rating:PG-13 (for thematic elements, drug content, and language including a sexual reference)


Starring:Daniel Johnston


Official website:

Plot Summary:

2005 Sundance Film Festival, Winner - Best Director Daniel Johnston, a manic-depressive genius singer/songwriter/artist, revealed in this portrait of madness, creativity and love. "The Devil and Daniel Johnston" is a stunning portrait of a musical and artistic genius who nearly slipped away. Director Jeff Feuerzeig exquisitely depicts a perfect example of brilliance and madness going hand in hand with subject Daniel Johnston. As an artist suffering from manic depression with delusions of grandeur, Daniel Johnston's wild fluctuations, numerous downward spirals, and periodic respites are exposed in this deeply moving documentary. As a reclusive teenager growing up in New Cumberland, VA, Johnston began showing signs of unusual artistic ability at an early age. He religiously recorded his thoughts and stories onto cassette tapes, directed intuitive Super- 8 films starring himself in multiple roles ala Peter Sellers, and created expressive comic book-style drawings and animation in the basement of his family's home. However, in the eyes of his fundamentalist Christian family, Daniel simply wasn't contributing to society in a useful or productive way. After running off on a moped and joining a carnival, he landed in Austin, Texas, broke and alone. It was there he began to hone his musical career, recording folk songs on a series of homemade, lo-fi cassettes, which Daniel handed out free to fans, friends and journalists in the early 80s. With the help of a timely break and the thriving Austin music scene, Daniel managed to secure a brief spotlight on MTV making him a minor celebrity. But just as he was beginning to make a name for himself, his inner demons began to surface and Daniel's ongoing struggle with manic depression became more and more evident in his songs and drawings. "The Devil and Daniels Johnston" artfully melds current footage, vintage performances, home movies, and dozens of recorded audiotapes from Daniel's life. Testimony from supportive friends and a deeply committed family adds a rich layer to his personal history, but it is Daniel's poetic songs interwoven through out the film, that tell their own passionate, haunting, and truly unforgettable story. Now in his mid 40s, Daniel Johnston has grown into a prolific visual artist. His expressions have earned him worldwide recognition and critical praise, producing international exhibits where he continues to sell his vibrant and intimate sketches. He has recorded over ten full length albums, and his supporters have included Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain, who was often seen wearing a Daniel Johnston t shirt, Matt Groening, The Butthole Suffers, Sonic Youth, noted Minutemen/FIREHOSE bassist Mike Watt, David Bowie, Tom Waits, Beck, The Flaming Lips, and an ever-growing international cult audience. This is the story of talented and tormented Daniel Johnston, a manic-depressive genius singer/ songwriter/ artist, revealed in this portrait of madness, creativity and love.

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