Portrait Of Shirley

A Documentary By Immy Humes



“Portrait of Shirley” is the first documentary about Clarke, a ground breaking but neglected American artist. Our film, which is in early production, will be a portrait of an artist: a biography and an exploration of her ideas, works, against the background of her times. We are drawing from a wealth of newly uncovered, and newly restored archival materials, including gems from private video journals that Clarke recorded, plus landmark jazz recordings, film and video artworks, and new interviews with a dizzying assortment of artists and cultural figures, such as Agnes Varda, Dernardo Coleman, Freddie Redd, Hilton Als, Yoko Ono, Jonas Mekas, Martin Scorsese, and DA Pennebaker, among others. Clarke helped start a cultural revolution by filming people not seen on Hollywood screens: young men in Harlem; jazz musicians, including the great Ornette Coleman; heroin addicts; a single Latina mother; and the inimitable Jason Holliday, one of the first gay black men ever immortalized on screen. As she and other founders of independent cinema put it in a famous 1961 manifesto: “We don’t want false, polished, slick films—we prefer them rough, unpolished, but alive; we don’t want rosy films—we want them the color of blood.”

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