“Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat”
Driver has long been a staple of New York’s independent film community, as a director of two narrative features and as the longtime collaborator (and partner) of Jim Jarmusch. But it wasn’t until a chance meeting with a friend after Hurricane Sandy that she found inspiration to shoot her first documentary, the Toronto entry “Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat.”
“I went to see my friend Alexis Adler,” Driver says of her pal who had lived with the now storied artist when he was a young man in the late 1970s, “and we had a cup of tea, and from clearing out her storage before the storm, she said, ‘I’d forgotten about all the work I’d put away that Jean-Michel left me.’ It was about 60 drawings, pieces of his writing, his old notebooks, and then about 75 photographs she had taken of him when he was 17 or 18 years old.”
Seeing these old, previously unseen materials sparked Driver’s imagination, and she initially planned to use them for a 20-minute short. The idea kept growing, however, and when Driver became frustrated trying to pin down funding for a narrative feature, she went all in: “I just bought a camera and started shooting, then spent the last four years putting it together.”
“Boom” was facilitated by the fact that Driver herself had been a part of Basquiat’s close-knit scene. “We all knew each other, it wasn’t that big of a community,” Driver says.
Basquiat, who died in 1988 at age 27, has been the subject of several docs already, but Driver saw particular value in focusing entirely on him before fame and recognition came his way. “I thought of it more of an essay film. Jean had already created his whole university of who he was going to be influenced by.”
– Andrew Barker