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Portrait of Jason

A gay African-American hustler and aspiring cabaret performer, Jason Holliday is the sole on-screen presence in this classic piece of cinema verité.

With the perspective of a black gay man, a perspective seldom seen in cinema and even in a contemporary context, Clarke’s film takes on a significance that has earned the documentary an important place in the history of the queer community. Throughout the film, Holliday recounts stories ranging from the outrageous and entertaining to the vulgar with increasing repetition. These are Jason’s personal narratives, but they provide insight into broader racial and class politics of 1960s America, as well as about gay culture and a very specific hip 1960s subculture.

Over 50 years old, Clarke’s film still has so much to say about class, race, and the nature of performance.