Release Date: October 25, 2013 (Limited)
Director: Jeffrey Schwarz
MPAA Rating: NR
Film Pulse Score: 8/10
[This is a repost of our review from SXSW 2013, I Am Divine hits theaters October 25]
Jeffrey Schwarz’s I Am Divine is a fascinating look at the famous cross-dressing character actor Divine, or Glen Milstead, as he was known by family and friends. This documentary shines a heartfelt look on the life and tragic passing of one of Hollywood’s most misunderstood icons.
Divine was most known for his roles in numerous John Waters’ films, most notably Pink Flamingos and the original Hairspray. While many wouldn’t necessarily think an overweight, mouthy cross-dresser would have the makings of a superstar, Divine’s tenacity and high octane personality proved to be something everyone wanted to see.
While Divine’s career didn’t start with Pink Flamingos, it is the role that gave him his big break and open the doors to a monstrous career in film, on stage, and even in music. While he is now regarded as a legitimate and even great actor, the initial draw of his films was to simply see how depraved and filthy his characters would be. The bar was set high in Pink Flamingos when he ate actual dog feces on camera and since then he and John Waters were highly regarded as the king and queen of trash cinema.
Although Divine had such an interesting and enthralling story, up until now there hasn’t been a proper documentary made about his life. Thankfully that’s no longer the case, as I Am Divine should be considered the only true and definitive biography.
With amazing interviews from most of Divine’s friends and family including John Waters, Ricki Lake, and his formerly estranged Mother, the film paints an accurate and insightful picture into his personal life, and shows was a great person he actually was.
The relationship and reconciliation with his family proved to be one of the more touching aspects of the film, and added an almost bittersweet tone to the film’s conclusion with Divine’s passing.
This film is also a testament to how successful crowdfunding campaigns can really be. This project was entirely fan funded through Kickstarter and other donations and the end result is incredible. Everything from the structure of the film itself, to the visual style feels polished and of the highest quality. Like Divine himself, this movie should be looked at as an inspiration for people who dream big and have high aspirations.
Cinephiles and John Waters fan alike will love this movie, but the message and the subject matter will prove to be much farther reaching than fans. Divine’s life was a testament that even if you are different you shouldn’t let the world bring you down. Let your freak flag fly and love who you are and be yourself. Divine reveled in his individuality and grew famous and successful because of it despite the cruelty of people. This is Divine’s gift to us, and something that has and will remain for decades after his death.
Be sure to check out our interview with Jeffrey Schwarz here.