Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

June 22, 2014 by  


for those with an interest in James Broughton and his work and the San Francisco Renaissance will no doubt want to watch “Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton”. Informative, well-made and entertaining, this documentary is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Kino Lorber. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton


DURATION: 82 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 1:85:1, English, Color and BW

COMPANY: Kino Lorber


RELEASE DATE: June 3, 2014

Directed by Stephen Silha, Eric Slade, Dawn Logsdon

Executive Producer: Franklin Abbott, Libby Atkins, Alvin Baum, Jok R. Church, Michael Hemes, Ian Hinkle, Stephen Silha, Joel Singer, Max St. Romain, Martha Troiin, Phillip Willkie

Consulting Producer: Laura Hammer

Associate Producer: Aimee Cartier

Music by Evan Schiller, Jami Sieber

Cinematography by Ian Hinkle

Edited by Dawn Logsdon


James Broughton

Neeli Cherkovski

Jack Foley

Alex Gildzen

Anna Halprin

Suzanna Hart

Davey Havok

George Kuchar

Armistead Maupin

Big Joy premiered at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival, screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, and then played over thirty-five festivals worldwide. Co-directed by Eric Slade, Stephen Silha, and Dawn Logsdon, Big Joy is the first documentary about longtime Bay Area poet and filmmaker James Broughton, a defining artistic voice of the 60′s & 70′s sexual and artistic revolution.

This is It
and I am It
and You are It
and so is That

and He is It
and She is It
and It is It
and That is That

by James Broughton

From directors Stephen Silha, Eric Slade and Dawn Logson comes a celebration of the work of American poet and poetic filmmaker James Broughton.

Broughton was one of the key individuals who was part of founding of the San Francisco Renaissance (a predecessor of the Beat movement) and known for his filmmaking which was seen as avant-garde.

But for a man who is well-loved by those who appreciate his work, the life of James Broughton was not as smooth as one would think.

“Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton” explores Broughton’s life as a young man who had a difficult childhood because he knew he was gay but was punished by his overbearing mother whenever he acted effeminate and lost his father at an early age due to the 1918 influenza pandemic.

Talented, creative, whimsical and happy, Broughton would have relationships with both men and women and lived with renown American film critic Pauline Kael, in which both would have a daughter together.

But Broughton brought joy to many of his supporters thanks to his 23 books and 23 films and exploring how Broughton chose to avoid the path of fame after his short film “The Pleasure Garden” won an award at the 1953 Cannes International Film Festival.

As the documentary explores Broughton’s work and his few loves, but to know Jim Broughton is to confront his complex lifestyle and learn how this man became a major figure of Avante-Garde film but also the San Francisco revolution and eventually a pioneer of poetry and the independent film movement.


“Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton” is a documentary presented in black and white and color.  Because the documentary incorporates film from various sources, picture quality differs from time to time but for the most part, shots from these sources are visible and not in horrible shape.  Picture quality was good as one can expect on DVD and stereo audio was clear and understandable.


“Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes(27:50) Featuring many deleted scenes.
  • Extra Interviews and Stories – (4:05) Featuring additional interviews and stories.
  • Keith Hennessey Presentation – (2:27) Keith Hennessey discusses how he was inspired by Broughton.
  • Poetry Readings – (11:48) Poetry readings of James Broughton’s work.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:24) The theatrical trailer for “Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton”.
  • The Golden Positions (1971) Directed by James Broughton – (2:21) A James Broughton short film.
  • Poetry from BIG JOY – Poetry that can be accessed via PC/MAC as a DVD-Rom

James Broughton may not be a well-known name to many people but for those who have been inspired by this American poet and filmmaker, James Broughton was a man responsible for groundbreaking work which introduced his artistic expression but also a man ahead of his time, not bowing down to what most people would do during his time.

A gay man trying to keep his lifestyle private during a time when no one dared talk about or let alone share information that they were gay in fear of being followed by police or beaten by anti-gay individuals, James Broughton was a complex individual.

From his early age at dressing like a girl and being admonished by his overbearing mother who had a system in place, so James would not behave and act as effeminate, Broughton lived a life of confusion.  Not knowing if his feeling for both men and women is normal, questioning his life in his diary but also fathering children with women (including renown film critic Pauline Kael) but while with other women, falling in love with other men.

While “Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton” may bring intrigue to his personal and sexual life and the life he faced when he was young, to his older age before he passed away, the documentary is first and foremost a celebration for James Broughton and celebrating his life and work.

His poetry which is beloved by many is featured prominently throughout the film but also his groundbreaking work as a filmmaker. A man who would make experimental shorts without Hollywood meddling but also his exploration of sexual liberation, “Big Joy” is fascinating as it goes far into showcasing Broughton’s creativity and his ability to entertain and enlighten people.

Most importantly, the film is well-researched as it includes video and audio excerpts from Broughton in his younger years to his older years, plus audio from Pauline Kael and interviews with the people he loved.  There is a good amount of footage that was sourced from many different video outlets that it helps paint a picture of Broughton’s life thanks to the carefully planned editing and the film’s straightforward, easy to follow pacing.

The Kino Lorber DVD also features a good number of special features which include deleted scenes, extended interviews, poetry readings and more.

Overall, for those with an interest in James Broughton and his work and the San Francisco Renaissance will no doubt want to watch “Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton”.  Informative, well-made and entertaining, this documentary is recommended!

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