Benjamin Smoke

Directed by Jem Cohen and Peter Sillen

A moving free-verse film biography of Southern poet and musician Benjamin Smoke who died of AIDS in 1999. Described as having the face of Tom Verlaine and the voice of Tom Waits, Benjamin wore his first frock at age nine (in adulthood, his favourite was a blue taffeta cocktail number). Later, Patty Smith’s Horses inspired him to become a musician, and he played with the Opal Foxx Quartet and Smoke. The film chronicles 10 years in Benjamin’s life as he performs at gigs, and talks about his life, sexuality, drugs, and drag. The filmmakers use a mixture of low-budget techniques to create a wispy impression of this enigmatic man. Co-produced by Michael Stipe, the film features a special appearance by Patti Smith reading a poem in Benjamin’s honour.

73 minutes

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