Sara Driver explores the pre-fame years of the celebrated American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, and how New York City, its people, and tectonically shifting arts culture of the late 1970s and '80s shaped his vision.
Jean-Michel Basquiat's artistic flame burned intensely before his death at age 27 in 1988. His recognition has only increased since then. He was memorialized in Julian Schnabel's film Basquiat and recently set the auction record for an American artist with his Untitled graffiti painting of a skull.
Filmmaker Sara Driver brings a fresh perspective to the life of this mercurial figure during his formative years, when he was a homeless teenager in New York City. His story is told through the memories of people who knew him personally, including rapper Fab 5 Freddy, filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, and graffiti artist Lee Quiñones.
Through his friends' interviews and archival footage, the young Basquiat comes across as magnetic and ambitious. His friend Felice Rosser puts his career in perspective: "In a world where Black people are not celebrated, he did it; he blew the roof off that sucker."