Dir Jeff Feuerzeig, 2005 US (109 mins)
A legend in the underground circles of lo-fi American music, the bizarre life of Daniel Johnston marks this documentary as more compelling than fiction. Identified early as a black sheep in his devoutly religious family, Johnston demonstrated a prodigious musical talent matched with a hunger for fame. But just as his simple and affecting song-writing started to win peer recognition, his mental illness worsened and his life has been marred by his devil-fixated persecution complex ever since.
The film spins its tale out beautifully, creatively incorporating the rich archive of Johnston’s early Super8 films and artwork. And while Johnston is no longer lucid enough for interviews, his voice is ever-present via the cassette tapes where he has compulsively recorded his thoughts since adolescence. The film suggests no romance in Johnston’s condition, instead it offers a poignant account of his relationships with friends and family, an appealing offbeat humour and a smattering of great songs. Kate Taylor