Theater / Film
OUTshine LGBTQ+ Film Festival offers in-person, streaming options
The documentary, “Make Me Famous,” highlights the career of Edward Brezinski. (Photo/Marcus Leatherdale)
There’s something to be said about someone who just won’t quit.
Exhibit A: Artist Edward Brezinski.
He pestered people to attend his art shows, doled out death threats and was best known for dismissing Robert Gober’s sculpture, “Bag of Donuts,” as … well … just a bag of donuts and then proceeding to consume one of its contents. And even though the stunt earned him a trip to the emergency room, this did nothing to temper his in-your-face antics, which are examined in “Make Me Famous,” a documentary showing at the 24th Annual OUTshine LGBTQ+ Film Festival.
Running from April 22-May 1, 2022, the festival will feature more than 45 international features and documentary screenings including “Jimmy in Saigon,” “Young and Afraid” and “Framing Agnes.” Parties and panel discussions will also be part of the festivities in venues throughout Miami-Dade County.
“Make Me Famous” is scheduled to screen at 5 p.m. Saturday, April 23, at the Regal Cinemas South Beach and be available for streaming throughout the duration of the event.
“This is really a great time for us to get out and come back together,” said Mark Gilbert, the festival’s board chair and interim executive director. “OUTshine LGBTQ+ festival is such a terrific event for people to come together and make new friends and see movies together in a theater where everybody is experiencing somewhat similar emotions. That to me is what is important and what makes our festival really special.”
Brian Vincent, director and coproducer of “Make Me Famous,” said he’s excited to be part of the event and hopes the film will continue to shine a light on the role of Brezinski.
“I think the most surprising thing about it is how much of an impact that Edward had on not just his contemporaries, who were all delighted to talk about him, but on the actual scene itself,” he said.
Set in New York City’s East Village, the film offers an unflinching look into the bleak, dilapidated and often filthy playground of artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and a motley crew of painters, poets, photographers and others. The group was known for forming a cocoon of creativity, sparking a burgeoning arts movement, and nurturing a renaissance born amid hopelessness and the trash.
There is a whirlwind cast of characters, each one more fascinating than the next, who offer amusing and insightful testimonies on the overall art scene and Brezinski’s life. In all, the group coalesces into the perfect embodiment of the “starving artist” caricature, but it’s clear that this was no gimmick. The artists truly were hungry — and perhaps Brezinski, who stood on the cusp of a dynamic art scene, was the hungriest of them all.
“I wanted to tell the story as much as possible, from the point of view of people that were there with their artwork,” Vincent said. “They were all broke, and there really was no hope of having any money in the 1980s. Their goal was not to be rich. It was to impress each other with their creativity.”
There’s even a South Florida connection, according to Heather Spore Kelly, the film’s producer.
“Actually, Edward was homeless in Miami in the ’90s. He was a poor artist selling his paintings on the street. He actually got arrested for vagrancy as he was sleeping on the beach,” she said via email. “I bet there are several Floridians who have an Edward Brezinski painting, and they will be happily surprised they supported such a talented and dedicated artist!”
At first, bringing Brezinski’s life to the screen presented a number of challenges.
“Brezinski didn’t exist online,” Vincent said. “What had to happen then was we had to go into the community and to interview everyone and dig through all kinds of suitcases, cellars and every kind of railroad apartment. People would find these Brezinski photos, and they were all very delighted to talk about Edward because [he] was someone that they hadn’t thought about in years.
“It was extremely difficult to find enough archival [information] to tell the story.”
Connecting with artists proved to be another hurdle. The filmmakers had to gain the trust of reclusive artists including Richard Hambleton, who was suffering from melanoma and was persuaded to grant interviews after being coaxed through the crack of his door.
“They’re not like actors,” explained Vincent. “An actor will just show up if you call them and say, ‘Oh, I’m thinking about doing a show.’ Then they’ll be on your doorstep. But these artists are not like that at all. They inhabit their own worlds. They’re difficult to penetrate.”
The film’s producer hopes “Make Me Famous” will help spread an important message.
“This is actually our first film and we were inspired by the ’80s artists because they were so scrappy and innovative,” she said. “They serve as a shining example for those who toil away in obscurity to pursue their lifelong passions. We believe that a life devoted to art really means something. You can make a difference as an artist, whether or not you’re famous or rich.”
WHAT: 24th Annual OUTshine LGBTQ+ Film Festival
WHEN: “Make Me Famous” will be screened at 5 p.m. Saturday, April 23. Additional streaming options will be available throughout the festival, which runs from Friday, April 22, through Sunday, May 1.
WHERE: Regal Cinemas South Beach, 1120 Lincoln Road Mall, Miami Beach; other festival screenings and events are scheduled throughout Miami-Dade County
COST: $8 for in-person screenings and $7 for virtual screenings