The Cleveland International Film Festival promotes artistically and culturally significant film arts through education and exhibition to enrich the life of the community.
April 04, 2019 | posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers
Mike Diana’s twisted art might not be for the masses, but the lessons of his relentless fight to ensure he wasn’t silenced are relevant to us all–or at least anyone who values freedom of speech.
“Boiled Angels: The Trial of Mike Diana” recounts the story of an illustrator who was the first artist convicted of obscenity. His crime? Publishing what was considered an inappropriate comic book. The court found that Diana’s ultra-violent “Boiled Angels” series “lacked serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.” It’s a timeless story, according to the film’s producer, Mike Hunchback, with continued relevance.
“One of the realities of human society is that there will always be these forces that arise wherein people band together out of being overwhelmed with seeing their preferred brand of morality collapsing,” Hunchback says. “They can't change the world, so they pick easy targets and rally to extinguish these minor, often irrelevant, fires. Awareness of this faulty human tendency is extremely important–[it’s] the mistakes we make when we forget that are the real obscenity.”
The film is narrated by Jello Biafra, the iconic front man of punk pioneers The Dead Kennedys, and a frequent target of the so-called moral majority. The first time Hunchback says he heard of Mike Diana was on one of Biafra’s spoken word albums–not long after Diana’s case started to leak into the mainstream.
“Boiled Angels,” though, isn’t just the story of Mike Diana. It’s explores the history of underground comics–and the people who cherish them, Hunchback says. In Hunchback’s view, Diana’s art is as comparable to Pasolini and Goya as it is to R. Crumb and GG Allin, two other iconic artists who tapped into the underground with their unique brands of gore and grit.
Hunchback’s hope? That this documentary inches us ever closer to a culture where such comparisons aren't shocking.
“As someone who finds a very serious value in Mike's art, I hope that people can see that this vision of a unified, hateful underground is false,” Hunchback says. “People that read Mike's comix, or listen to death metal, or watch nasty, disturbing horror films aren't bad people.”
– Timothy Magaw
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