1967 / 1h 45m min. / Not rated
Director: Shirley Clarke
Cast: Jason Holliday

Black Gold: PORTRAIT OF JASON

BLACK GOLD is back at it again! Celebrating the best of black cinema and its icons from then ’til now, Black Gold is excited to present our January screening, a sparkling restoration courtesy of Milestone films, of Shirley Clarke’s PORTRAIT OF JASON!

“On the night of December 2, 1966, Clarke and a tiny crew convened in her apartment at the Hotel Chelsea to make a film. There, for twelve straight hours they filmed the one-and-only Jason Holliday as he spun tales, sang, donned costumes and reminisced about good times and bad behavior as a gay hustler, sometime houseboy and aspiring cabaret performer. The result is a mesmerizing portrait of a remarkable, charming and tortured man, who is by turns hilarious and heartbreaking. Ingmar Bergman called it “the most extraordinary film I’ve seen in my life.”

PORTRAIT OF JASON is a film that plays with complexities. While it was shot in a cinema vérité style, the film’s subject is a man who readily admits to deceiving everyone — and may be lying to the camera. Was Clarke giving Holliday a stage on which to perform in what he calls his “moment,” or just using him? She worried about that herself. As Holliday notes about the ironies of life as a houseboy, “it gets to be joke sometime as to who’s using who.” Later, Clarke would say “The result, I’m convinced is a portrait of a guy who is both a genius and a bore. Although Jason says he really hasn’t had any fun as a ‘hustler’ conning people, he appears to have had the last laugh.” Any way you look at the film, it remains of the most fascinating documentaries in cinema.

Now, almost fifty years after it was filmed, PORTRAIT OF JASON is also a potent reminder of what the world was like for black gay men in the heat of the Civil Rights movement and before the Stonewall Uprising. Holliday talks about serving time at New York’s Riker’s Island jail after propositioning (or being propositioned by) an undercover cop. And his observations on the casual racism he experienced are funny, stinging, and painful.

People fell in love with Jason Holliday in 1967. In 1995, Marlon Riggs asked the question in his brilliant Black Is…Black Ain’t, “How long, Jason, how long have they sung about the freedom and the righteousness and the beauty of the black man and ignored you. How long?””

— Milestone Films

7:30 PM: PRE-SHOW
8:00 PM: FILM STARTS

There will be prizes!

Generously sponsored by Boosie Fade and Eyesore Cinema! Keep up to date with Boosie Fade: The Group and Boosie Fade Film Club.

Make sure to follow the BLACK GOLD  page!

Black Gold wishes to acknowledge the Haudenosaunee and the Mississaugas of the New Credit, the original keepers of this land, for hosting Black Gold and The Royal Cinema. Today, the meeting place of Tkaronto is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work and present in this territory.

Upcoming Screenings:


Friday, Jan 19 - 8:00pm