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Benjamin Smoke (2000)

Director: Jem Cohen, Jem Cohen, Pete Sillen, more...
    see all cast/crew...
Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Plexifilm
Genre: Documentary, Music, Biographies, Documentary, Music
Running Time: 118 min.
Languages: English
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Noted documentary filmmaker Jem Cohen (along with Peter Sillen) directs this look at Benjamin, a Southern, gay, HIV positive, drug-addicted drag queen who led the blues-punk band "Smoke." Born Robert Dickerson in 1960, Benjamin played punk in Atlanta's grungy Cabbagetown section before fronting the queer-core band Opal Foxx Quartet. Thereafter, he began experimenting with such decidedly unpunk instruments as banjos and cellos and formed Smoke. As Cabbagetown lost its edgy spirit during the 1990s -- thanks to the yuppie-friendly condo boom -- so did Benjamin lose his fight against AIDS. He died of the disease early in 1999. This film was screened at the 2000 Berlin Film Festival. ~ Jonathan Crow, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

unusual by alexjb May 3, 2006 - 12:00 PM PDT
this isn't bad; the subject is actually a very unusual character - gay, HIV+, cross-dressing, and fronting a hard-core punk badn, all in a very small, unsophisticated town.

unfortunately, it's a bit weak as a documentary because we're sort of air-dropped right into the middle - there's very little setup or context provided for what the film's going to cover.

there's a lot of monologue from smoke, who is a very compelling screen presence - he's got this great scratchy throaty voice, loves to tell stories, and is very comfortable in front of the camera. there are a few scenes of the town he lives in and his band's interactions and performances.

visually, it's not bad- a little rough the way that the various scenes are strung together. it lacked a certain cohesion in terms of telling benjamin's story.

overall, i felt like i would have enjoyed this a lot more if i had already known who he was, or was a fan of his music, which seems unlikely, since he didn't seem to ever make it big.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.42)
26 Votes
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