He was born Harris Glenn Milstead, but gays around the world know him simply as Divine. In the new documentary film I Am Divine, we find out that she was at times as big in real life as she was on screen.
From filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz, whose film Vito gave us a fascinating look at the life of Vito Russo at last year’s DOXA Documentary Film Festival, Schwarz once again holds the title of the must-see LGBTQ feature this year with I Am Divine.
Known for his prolific work in John Waters’ films including Pink Flamingos, Polyester and perhaps most famously Hairspray, Schwarz captures Divine’s rise to fame as a gay icon from his middle-class upbringing in Maryland. Through interviews with Waters and his long-time acting collaborator Mink Stole among others, Schwarz
highlights Divine’s well publicized antics and his willingness to do just about anything for both Waters and his career, a career that spanned four decades and went well beyond making movies. Interviews with his mother and contemporary drag performers help to underscore the reality of the man and the legacy that he left behind.
But more than a simple recounting of those infamous Divine moments that included eating dog feces in Pink Flamingos, a stunt we find out he got tired of talking about over the years, Schwarz also paints a portrait of a quiet introspective man who, once he cast-off his extensive make-up and outlandish costumes, was as interested in reinventing himself as he was in shocking us. And while his life was cut short as he was about to make that transition from wild drag superstar to more serious actor (or as serious as one could get in a guest appearance on Married… With Children), it is not hard to imagine Milstead would be just as Divine on network television as he was in the rest of his work.
I Am Divine is the ultimate documentary for those that grew up in the 80s and those that are discovering what it means to be Divine for the very the first time.
With Schwarz directing our must-see films of the DOXA Documentary Film Festival two years running, pressure is on for a hat-trick as he is set to release his next biopic on the life of gay 1950s matinee idol Tab Hunter in 2014.
I Am Divine
Showing as part of the 2013 DOXA Documentary Film Festival
Rio Theatre – Friday, May 10, 2013 at 6:30pm
Visit http://www.doxafestival.ca for tickets and information.