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Artistic bard is celebrated in joyful documentary from island director

After the euphoria of your New Year’s Eve celebration, how can you boost the joy into the new year? Vashon Film Society invites you to see a remarkable film from island director Stephen Silha, the award-wining documentary “Big Joy.” The film will play at the Vashon Theatre on Friday, January 3 and will be VFS’ first offering of 2014.

“Big Joy: the Adventures of James Broughton” chronicles the life of iconoclastic poet-filmmaker James Broughton whose charismatic voice and gay activism emerged in the artistic renaissance of San Francisco in the years following World War II.

Broughton was regarded by his peers as one of the defining voices of the sexual revolution, and he embraced an avant-garde artistic life melding cinema and poetry with groundbreaking panache. When Broughton’s award-winning 1953 film “The Pleasure Garden” was featured at the Cannes Film Festival, famed director Jean Cocteau exulted, “Bravo! An American who made a French film in England.”

The Vashon Theatre showing will also mark a homecoming for Silha whose film had an amazing debut year in 2013. Silha’s film celebration of Broughton’s artistic legacy has toured widely on the international festival circuit, premiering at SXSW 2013 and then garnering acclaim at more than thirty other film festivals on five continents.

The Vashon-based writer-director met the iconoclastic subject of his documentary in 1989 after Broughton and soul mate Joel Singer moved to Port Townsend. A close friendship developed, with the visionary Broughton offering mentorship to Silha. Broughton was an inspiration to those around him as he lived his last decade of life, revered as a bard of sexual liberation, always exhorting “follow your own weird.”

About making his first film, Silha says, “It’s exciting to me that people walk out of the theaters happy and inspired to live a bigger life.”

Seattle Times critic Moira MacDonald wrote, “’Big Joy,’ filmed with an irresistibly playful spirit, dances with words, film clips and images from a long and, it seems, a mostly joyous life. It’s a fitting send-off for a man who once told an audience, ‘When in doubt, twirl.”

The Art Film screening of “Big Joy:  the Adventures of James Broughton” will play the Vashon Theatre at 9:30 pm on January 3 and will feature special creative performances and surprises for audience members. Admission is $7/all ages, and students can obtain free entrance at the box office thanks to a generous donor.