1981 / 72 min. /
Director: Edo Bertoglio
Cast: Jean Michel Basquiat, John Lurie, Richard Weigand

Black Gold: DOWNTOWN 81

BLACK GOLD is back at it again! Celebrating the best of black cinema and its heroes from then ’til now, Black Gold is excited to present our August screening – the vibrant part-fantasy, part-experimental, pseudo concert film, DOWNTOWN 81!

Directed by Edo Bertoglio, written and produced by TV Party’s Glenn O’Brien (alongside later post-production by Maripol), and featuring music by Jean-Michel Basquiat, John Lurie, and Vincent Gallo, Downtown 81 stands as a testament to the intersection of art, music, and fashion in post-punk era Manhattan. Shot through ’80-’81, Downtown 81 saw its proper release 20 years after the fact, becoming an instant classic after its premiere at Cannes in 2000, and is now finally available in a beautifully restored version.

Starring a young and not-yet-famous Jean-Michel Basquiat as a film-realized version of himself, Downtown 81 follows a day in the life of a struggling artist and musician trying to find the cash to appease his landlord’s looming threats of eviction. Jean-Michel navigates the abandoned lots, graffiti and garbage strewn streets, and after-hours clubs of a pre-Giuliani Lower East Side in search of a buyer for his work, all the while encountering a series of events and figures – from the real world robbing of his jam space through to a fantastical meeting with a down-on-her-luck woman imbued with magical powers.

Much of the dialogue for the film was dubbed 20 years after the fact, giving it a disembodied, phantasmatic feel – particularly with the addition of artist and poet Saul Williams as the voice of Basquiat. While perhaps unfocused at first glance, Downtown 81 is less about linear narrative filmmaking and more about its robust DIY energy and unaffected look at the now-vanished landscapes of early 80s New York. With a cast chock full of artists and musicians working at the time, the film features Debbie Harry, Fab 5 Freddy, a scene-stealing Cookie Mueller, as well as performances by Kid Creole & the Coconuts, Coati Mundi, DNA, Walter Steding, The Plastics, and James White and the Blacks, just to start. Don’t miss this one!


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We have 5 accessible sections in our theatre which you can reserve ahead of time by calling! 416-466-4400 ext 0. One of our accessible seating areas has space for two mobility devices and a small section behind for the party to join. The other three are for single mobile devices with 2-3 seats beside it.

Please note that we do not have accessible washrooms. All of our washrooms are upstairs.


Upcoming Screenings:

None Currently Scheduled