Primarily known (where known at all) as a prolific sci-fi author, Samuel R. Delany gets props as a writer in myriad genres, a unique intellect and pretty interesting personality in "The Polymath."

Primarily known (where known at all) as a prolific sci-fi author, Samuel R. Delany gets props as a writer in myriad genres, a unique intellect and pretty interesting personality in “The Polymath.” Director Fred Barney Taylor uses some experimental visual techniques to open up what’s at heart a one-man talking head interview. Compelling docu merits further exposure via fests and artscasters, though the subject’s frankness about his prodigious sexual history won’t tempt PBS.

Being a gay African-American sci-fi writer probably has earned Delany less recognition than he deserves, though fellow scribes Walter Moseley and Jonathan Lethem offer support here. Raised in a prominent Harlem family, he was publishing acclaimed fantasy novels by age 20, already married with a daughter — though he credits his early prose productivity to NYC’s “sexual generosity,” as he took frequent breaks for anonymous sex. (He estimates more than 50,000 such “contacts,” and while pushing 70 isn’t done yet.) Called “a philosophical, confessional and creative genius,” his multifaceted life and passions are conveyed in a mosaic form utilizing artfully composited archival imagery. The only missing element is a clearer grasp of his sci-fi work for the uninitiated.

The Polymath or, the Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman

Production

A MaestroMedia production. Produced by Anthony Matt. Executive producer, Fred Barney Taylor. Directed, edited by Fred Barney Taylor.

Crew

Camera (color, mini-DV/HD-to-DigiBeta), Taylor, Anthony Matt; music, Quentin Chiapetta. Reviewed at San Francisco Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, June 20, 2008. Running time: 75 MIN.

With

Samuel R. Delany, Jonathan Lethem, Walter Moseley.
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