American Magus

  • 120'
  • USA
  • 2001
It took a little time, but now at last a fulllength documentary has been made about the cult figure Harry Smith (19231991). Smith is one of the hidden jewels of the intellectual and artistic history of America in the 20th century. He became known to a certain extent with his Anthology of American Folk Music from 1952, but Smith's brilliant spirit and versatility extended much further. In 1950, he received a Guggenheim grant for his nonobjective films and paintings, as anthropologist he was interested in anything from peyote to string figures, he was a revolutionary collector looking for the synchronous patterns in different kinds of objects to find their inner language and he was one of the most grisly and erudite occultists ever.Filmmaker and poet Paola Igliori had an intense relationship with Smith in the last months of his life. She uses interviews with for instance Allen Ginsberg, Robert Frank, Jonas Mekas and pictures from his films, his countless collections, synthetic diagrams and rare archive material to sketch a fascinating portrait of the man who influenced artists from Gregory Corso to DJ Spooky and of whom was said that he lived a thousand lives in one. Or, to quote one of the many eloquent statements: 'Without Harry Smith I wouldn't have existed!' (Bob Dylan).
Paola Igliori
World premiere
Country of production
Production Year
Festival Edition
IFFR 2002
Betacam SP PAL
Inanout Digital Productions, Paola Igliori
Inanout Digital Productions