Restored 35mm Print

March 1: Post-film conversation between Michael Zilkha (executive producer of “Downtown 81” and co-chair of the MFAH film subcommittee) and artist Joseph Havel, director of the Glassell School of Art

In 1981, writer Glenn O’Brien, Swiss photographer Edo Bertoglio, and on-the-rise graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat hit the streets of lower Manhattan to make a movie about its bohemian milieu. Unreleased until 2000 and newly restored in a sparkling 35mm print, the film endures as a fascinating time capsule. Basquiat plays a struggling artist hustling for someplace to sleep. Featuring performances by legendary No Wave bands DNA, James White and the Blacks, the Plastics, and appearances by Deborah Harry, John Lurie, and Fab Five Freddy.

• “A joyous artifact ... a time machine, allowing young nostalgists to temporarily inhabit a moment that continues to inspire twenty-something culture vultures today.” —Hollywood Reporter 

• “A genuine time capsule that shouldn't be missed.” —Hammer to Nail

• “Undeniably seductive, an aurally dense, fanciful travelogue.” —4Columns

• “An extraordinary real-life snapshot of hip, arty, clubland Manhattan in the post-punk era.” —Variety

• “A who’s who of the CBGB set before CBGB got turned into a sweatshirt slogan.” —New York Observer 

• “The quintessential art film of the 1980s. You couldn’t make something like this today.” —Garage

• Learn about the history of the film.

• Read an interview with the filmmaker.

• Read about the restoration of the film here and here.

► Plan ahead for your visit with parking information.

Watch on YouTube

Edo Bertoglio
Running Time
72 minutes
35mm, Color