Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton

Directed by Stephen Silha and Eric Slade

Release Year: 2013
Running Time: 82
Color Type: Color
Country: U.S.
Language: English
Closed Captioned: Yes
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Screening Info
James Broughton

Directed by Stephen Silha and Eric Slade

Years before the Beats arrived in San Francisco, the city exploded with artistic expressions: painting, theatre, film, poetry. At its center was the groundbreaking filmmaker and poet James Broughton. Big Joy explores Broughton's passionate embrace of a life of pansexual transcendence and a fiercely independent mantra: 'follow your own weird.' His remarkable story spans the post-war San Francisco Renaissance, his influence on the Beat generation, escape to Europe during the McCarthy years, a lifetime of acclaim for his joyous experimental films and poetry celebrating the human body, finding his soulmate at age 61, and finally, his ascendancy as a revered bard of sexual liberation.

Educational Reviews

"James Broughton was known to us in the late 20th century as the herald of Joy. He was a brilliant poet and film-maker, a performer, and a riot of color, ideally suited to the utopian expectations of the Sixties. He was also a deeply complex man who drew his beneficent Joy from a well of centuries' old sorrows. This film rises to the majesty and complexity of James Broughton's work, illuminating a totemic figure. The wingspan of James Broughton's fancy reaches well out of his time into ours, thanks to this film." Andrei Codrescu is a poet and journalist, author of many books, most recently: "Bibliodeath: my Archives (with life in footnotes)" and "whatever gets you through the night: a story of sheherezade and the arabian entertainments."

"James was my teacher, a beautiful man, an inspiration at San Francisco Art Institute, in the 1970's. He opened my mind, spirit and began crafting my cinematic vision. He also laughed. The film, Big Joy, is a portrait of this man of pithy insights: 'Follow your own weird. If you don't fill your days with love, you are wasting your life.' I am happy to report that my inner child is still ageless. This film captures his complexities amidst his joy." - Caroline Savage, Program Director, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts

"Big Joy is a rich examination of one of queer history's most provocative, wild, and overlooked figures -- but it is more than this, as it paints a portrait of what it means to make art that electrifies, dazzles, and shakes you -- art that stimulates you. Big Joy's tribute to James Broughton is a lesson on the potentialities of risky creativity and unbridled sexuality. Fun and instructive, it opens the eyes to the poetic and erotic world of avant garde film." - Hunter Hargraves, Dept of Modern Culture and Media, Brown University

"Educators seeking to engage twenty-first century students with the complexity of twentieth-century queer lives, yearnings, expressions, and belonging can find a fantastic trampoline in Big Joy. A tale of James Broughton's loves, anxieties and artistry, it will provoke passionate discussions about what to make of a full and messy life well-lived. This Is It!" - Don Romesburg, Ph.D., Chair of Women's and Gender Studies, Sonoma State University

" a manner of speaking, James invented and perfected a poetic cinema." Janis Lipzin, American Multimedia Artist

Critical Acclaim

"I learned and stole a lot from James Broughton. Go see this movie." - Gus Van Sant

"Filmmaker, poet and exuberant mischief-maker James Broughton was above all an avatar of joyful living, exhorting the world with his motto, 'Follow your own weird!' Stephen Silha and Eric Slade's loving portrait of Broughton overflows with the spirit of the man, his work and his message." - David Weissman (Director, The Cockettes)

"A wonderful movie that every independent spirit should see and be inspired by." - Justin Vivian Bond

"Big Joy is more than a tribute to James Broughton, a remarkable film-maker and poet. Big Joy evokes an era that he helped to shape, an era that welcomed unwrapping conventions, undressing bodies, and celebrating life and eros. James combined words with images with an infectious delight that I see throughout Big Joy. - Robert A. Haller, producer of Erogeny


  • Official Selection South by Southwest Film Festival

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