Movie Trailer

Movie Trailer with Director's Intro



San Francisco IndieFest    And the Winners Are...

        Feature doc Winner: The Devil and Daniel Johnston


The South by Southwest Festival
Austin, Texas


The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s New Directors/New Films Series

The Devil and Daniel Johnston
A Film by Jeff Feuerzeig

MOMA (Museum of Modern Art)

11 West 53 Street, New York, NY 10019
Wednesday, March 30th at 6pm
Friday, April 1st at 8:45pm

"The Devil and Daniel Johnston", directed by Jeff Feuerzeig


Daniel Johnston, manic-depressive genius singer/songwriter/artist is revealed in this portrait of madness, creativity and love.

The Devil and Daniel Johnston is a stunning portrait of a musical genius who nearly slipped away. Director Jeff Feuerzeig exquisitely depicts a perfect example of brilliance and madness going hand in hand. Because he is an artist suffering from manic depression with delusions of grandeur, Daniel Johnston's life is marked by wild fluctuations, numerous downward spirals, and periodic respites.

As a reclusive teenager, Johnston began showing signs of unusual artistic ability. He created intuitive Super- 8 films and expressive comic book-style drawings in the basement of his family's home. In the eyes of his fundamentalist Christian family, however, he simply wasn't contributing to society in a useful or productive way. After running off and joining a carnival, Johnston landed in Austin, Texas, broke and alone. It was there he began to hone his musical career, managing to secure a brief spotlight on MTV with the help of a timely break. Just as he was beginning to make a local name for himself, however, Johnston's inner demons began to surface.

The film artfully melds current footage, vintage performances, home movies, and dozens of recorded audiotapes from Johnston's life. Testimony from supportive friends and a deeply committed family adds a rich layer to Johnston's personal history, but Daniel Johnston's poetic songs tell their own passionate, haunting, and truly unforgettable story.
by Lisa Viola

USA 2005, 109min., color, b&w

ExecProd: Ted Hope
Prod: Henry Rosenthal
Cine: Fortunato Procopio
Edit: Tyler Hubby

Monday, January 24 8:15
Holiday Village Cinema
1776 Park Ave.
Park City, Utah

2005 Sundance Film Festival News and Reviews

Jeff Feuerzeig received the documentary directing honor for "The Devil and Daniel Johnston," chronicling the life of a musician and artist suffering from manic depression.

Jeff Feuerzeig
was awarded the Documentary Directing Award for "The Devil and Daniel Johnston,”



by Daniel Wible

(2005-01-26)2005, Un-rated, 109 Minutes,

When you come to Sundance, it’s with the hope of seeing a film like “The Devil and Daniel Johnston,” a near-brilliant portrait of a tortured, artistic genius. Unknown by too many, beloved by too few, Daniel Johnston is a true American original: an unparalleled singer-songwriter, artist, former McDonalds employee, delusional manic-depressive, unlikely legend in his own time. There will be those who approach this film with great anticipation, obsessive fans of Johnston’s who’ve waited for this moment forever. Then there will be those like me, who unfortunately had very little exposure to Johnston’s music and art prior to now. But I guess that’s the very reason why this doc feels so out of leftfield, immediate, and an extraordinary work of art in its own right.

For those that don’t know, Daniel Johnston is best known as a brilliant singer-songwriter who has the lyricism of Dylan, but the musical chops, or lack thereof, of Wesley “King of Rock ’n Roll” Willis. “The Devil and Daniel Johnston” is an illuminating chronicle of Johnston’s origins, rise to fame, disastrous breakdowns, paranoid delusions, painful redemption, and eventual elevation to living legend status. Since Johnston was such a prolific and obsessive artist by nature, he recorded on tape or film nearly every major moment in his life, artistic or otherwise. Thus, the film flaunts an almost unprecedented array of “found” footage that, when collected, remarkably captures the elusive essence of the man. The early footage of Johnston’s tumultuous creative odyssey is particularly illuminating, as the teenage Daniel provokes the anger and frustration of his loving parents who just didn’t get him. Firmly rooted in their Christian fundamentalist ideals, Mabel and Bill Johnston deeply cared for their son, but feared his turning to the “dark” side and becoming an “unprofitable servant of the Lord”, as they put it. As much as they tried to set him on the “right” path, enrolling him at a Christian college in Abilene, Johnston’s voracious creativity could not be suppressed and soon bizarre illustrations of eyeballs and Casper the Friendly Ghost and Captain America began flowing from him at a somewhat alarming rate.

Johnston eventually left Abilene and enrolled at an art college, Kent State, which was a much better fit for his unique sensibilities. At Kent, Johnston would meet the girl of his dreams and life-long muse in Laurie Allen. As Johnston tells it, she would inspire a thousand songs in him. But as it were, a lifetime with Laurie was not in the cards and it was around this time that Johnston would begin his long and devastating downward spiral. The rest of his tale is so unbelievable, so ridiculous, that to recount it all here would only be a foolhardy effort. To briefly summarize, Johnston’s absurd odyssey would find him running away with a carnival, scamming his way onto MTV, recording a masterpiece in “Hi, How Are You?”, losing his mind on LSD, attacking his manager with a lead pipe, getting committed to various mental institutions, adopting a fanatically Christian ideal, “assaulting” an elderly woman, working with Sonic Youth, crashing an airplane, starting a record company bidding war, firing his long-time manager Jeff Tartakov, and obsessing over Mountain Dew from a jail cell. And these are just some of the highlights (lowlights?) of an artist some people compare to Dylan or Brian Wilson.

Having been a Johnston novice, I must admit to being thoroughly unprepared for the sheer enormity of the man’s talents. While filmmaker Jeff Feuerzeig does an exceptional job of establishing Johnston as an almost preternaturally gifted figure with generous helpings of his music and art, his real accomplishment with “The Devil and Daniel Johnston” is in illuminating the deeply troubled man behind all the hipster fuss. The film is virtually overflowing with truly memorable scenes of great humor, pain, and inspiration. Especially heartfelt are the scenes of an older, somewhat stabilized Johnston living at home with his parents. Seeing the three of them onscreen together, after knowing the hardships they faced and continue to face, is enough to induce shivers. At 109 minutes, “The Devil and Daniel Johnston” feels slightly overlong, perhaps the price to pay for Feuerzeig’s obvious admiration for the guy. Feuerzeig clearly wants to place Johnston in the pantheon of the great Crazy Artists of history, from Virgin Woolf to Dali. With this film, I believe that the strange and wonderful legend of Daniel Johnston will only continue to grow.



By David Poland:

2:49a - Thank God that there have been some really good movies in the last couple of days. But the devil is a lot more fun.
If there is a masterpiece at Sundance this year, it's Jeff Feuerzeig's The Devil and Daniel Johnston.
It's amazing how many people wrote off this doc because of the catalog description. I guess that it is the price of maing a film about a guy that few Sundancers have ever heard of and describing him as a "musical genius." Put up or shut up. I was one of those who didn't know about Daniel Johnston's genius career. But after an hour or so of this film, I was not only aware, I was a believer.

But not only is the story of this dangerously manic depressive artist fascinating, the execution of the storytelling by Mr. Feuerzeig is elegant and complex, incredibly showy without ever seeming to try to be more interesting than the film's subject. Feuerzeig has only made one other film, a dozen years ago, about the band Half-Japanese… one member of which, by no coincidence, had collaborated with Daniel Johnston. But the skill Feuerzeig shows here is just amazing, bringing the barren melancholia, as well as the humor of Johnston's work to us in a way that makes the emotional experience unavoidable.

Feuerzeig's film is the latest quality example of the new genre of Self-Verite Documentaries. This group includes films like Andrew Jarecki's Capturing The Friedmans, John Dullaghan's Bukowski: Born Into This, Billy Corben's Raw Deal: A Question of Consent, and last year's Sundance surprise from Jonathan Couette, Tarnation. None of these films could have been made without a lot of footage taken on Super 8 or video by the subjects of the docs… none of whom actually directed their own stories.

Of course, the quality of the director's vision and skill are every bit as important as the raw footage. About half way through this film, I started thinking about how many horrible films we are about to see being submitted to (and sometimes accepted by) film festivals that are based on the home videos that have become ubiquitous in the era of relatively cheap video cameras.

So why is The Devil and Daniel Johnston so amazing? Well, it is the symbiotic use of Johnston's art work and his music, filling the eyes and ears so intensely that it fills the heart. This is the tale of a man who is deeply loved by the people in his life… and who have to put up with a great deal of trouble created by his illness. The music is fascinating, seemingly incompetent at first, but more and more beautiful as you get a chance to really listen to the lyrics. Feuerzeig uses lots and lots of taped dialogue over which he fearlessly loads visual imagery, never stuck to the traditional style of dealing with taped info. He even risks a harsh "click" at the end of some tapes that serves as a great filmic period to those tapes.

And of course, there is the subject. My first reaction to the film is that Fox Searchlight is the perfect studio to release this film, since for all intents and purposes, this is a real-life version of Napoleon Dynamite and the cult audience, which Searchlight built for Napoleon as effectively as any movie studio ever has, is ripe for the embrace of this movie. Not only is this a great doc, but it is fully capable of becoming one of the great college cult films of all time. Daniel Johnston is, after all, a kid from a small town who never gave up on his dreams and overcame not only his parents' disapproval, but the revolt of his own body and mind. Not only do you come to really respect his work in this film, you find a form of love for this damaged soul.

Not only was I thrilled to get the double CD of his work from the press office after seeing the film, but I can't wait to see him play live here in Park City later this week.

But I still don't feel like I've really expressed what is so very special about this film. And I'm not sure that I can…. maybe after I've seen it a few more times. Every time you think that it isn't going to get you, it grabs you tighter. This is a guy who couldn't handle cleaning tables at McDonald's but still managed to push his way onto MTV. This is a guy who obsesses on Casper The Friendly Ghost and Captain America, but raises their artistry to new levels in a way we are used to seeing from Warhol or Basquiat. This is a guy who is considered a genius, but who has lived with his parents for most of his life.

Entertaining. Challenging. Compelling. Magic.



Welcome to the NyQuil VIP Room
To catch everything at Sundance, you need a corporate sponsor, a bulletproof immune system and the ability to bend the laws of time and space.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Heather Havrilesky
Jan. 28, 2005 | PARK CITY, Utah -- .............
Luckily, the premiere party for "The Devil and Daniel Johnston" is just across the street in the Volkswagen Main Street Lounge, which is sort of like an art gallery filled with massive Volkswagen logos, the back end of a VW wagon, and a rug that looks like a collage of floor mats. The crowd gathered to celebrate Jeff Feuerzeig's entertaining documentary about songwriter Johnston is in good spirits, not surprising since the film is considered this year's "Super Size Me."

Speaking of fast food, there are McDonald's fries and hamburgers on platters at the party, in honor of Johnston's longtime job as a cashier at McDonald's. (Incredibly enough, when Johnston gained recognition, editors from Spin and other magazines would call him at McDonald's, since he didn't have a phone at home.)

At the party, Feuerzeig tells me he'd wanted to make a film about Johnston for years, but he'd been waiting for a third act in Johnston's life, as the musician disappeared from the public eye, spending time in and out of institutions due to his escalating battle with manic depression.
It proved to be well worth the wait, and Feuerzeig proved he had the patience to sort through piles of confessional audiotapes, home movies, artwork and hundreds of odd but impossibly catchy songs. Over the course of four years, Feuerzeig cobbled all of these artifacts together, along with some very moving interviews with friends and family, and the result is an imaginative and at times heartbreaking tribute to Johnston's life and work. Not only is Feuerzeig's film as inventive and outrageous as Johnston himself, but the filmmaker somehow manages to capture the strange quirks and charms of Johnston's cohorts and collaborators on film as well, choosing delectably odd first-person accounts over the more typical, tedious VH1-style testimonies of rock stars.

Johnston was performing later that night, but there was a long line outside, it was starting to rain and I was faint with hunger, so I escaped to Bandits down the street with some friends, ...........................
By the time we emerged from a disappointing meal, Johnston had already gone offstage after a short set, which just goes to show you that at Sundance, no matter how much you plan, you're always going to miss something. But chances are, festival-goers who've been stalking the latest indie hits with their credit cards won't miss "The Devil and Daniel Johnston" when they pass out the awards on Saturday night.

- - - - - - - - - - - -About the writer
Heather Havrilesky is Salon's TV critic. She also maintains the rabbit blog.



Sundance: Day Five
Time Out uncovers a gem and catches up with Jamie Bell and Tilda Swinton.
January 27 2005
Day five: Cult musician Daniel Johnston hits the big screen; and Time Out meets Jamie Bell, Thomas Vinterberg, Tilda Swinton and Mike Mills.
Sometimes, one event can make the entire trip to a far-flung film festival worthwhile. Monday night's screening at Sundance of Jeff Feuerzeig's music documentary 'The Devil and Daniel Johnston' achieved exactly that.

Daniel Johnston is a 43-year-old outsider singer-songwriter and manic depressive who has built a cult following since his early days in the mid-1980s performing in Austin, Texas while simultaneously holding down a day job at McDonald's.
Feuerzeig's compassionate film draws on Johnston's obsessive audio-taping of his life and work to tell us his extraordinary story, with interviews from his family and many who have known and worked with him over the past three decades.
The result is superb: a complex and balanced portrait that celebrates and reveals a character who has remained an enigma for years.
Johnston and his family, including his elderly parents, attended the film's premiere, watching Feuerzeig's documentary for the first time. They were clearly moved by the experience, remaining motionless in their seats as the rest of the audience filtered out.
Dave Calhoun



CRITIC'S DIARY: Sundance Docs "Doll," "Daniel Johnston,” and "Grizzly" Celebrate Independent Vision
By Stephen Garrett

........ The struggle with mental illness and its relationship to creative genius fuels Jeff Feuerzeig’s “The Devil and Daniel Johnston,” a mind-blowing journey through the life of the sweet-voiced singer-songwriter, which has so many serendipitous triumphs and tragedies (both professional and personal) that the truth plays like psychedelic folklore. ...........


Film Lovers Are Sick People


The Devil and Daniel Johnston
There were so many indie hipsters at today's screening of The Devil and Daniel Johnston, that I almost felt nauseous enough to sell my ticket and go home. As it turns out, that would've been a big mistake. The film was fantastic.

You see, at these film festival things, you have to pick up your ticket at will call and then wait in a line that stretches halfway down the block. Once the audience for the preceding film comes out and the theatre is tidied up, they let you in. If you want a decent seat (for me that's about 5-7 rows from the front and dead center), you have to show up at least 45 minutes before the film begins. Thirty minutes of that time is spent in line waiting and watching. During this time, I became (perhaps unduly) irritated by the procession of pretentiously stylized hipsters around me. There were a lot of potential fill-ins for members of Interpol and the Strokes there. For a good five minutes, I really did consider selling my ticket to one of the morose-looking folks in the "wish line" who had little or no chance of getting in. Luckily, I had my tunes and that saved me. I dialed up some Swedish death metal, ignored my surroundings and waited.

My knowledge of Daniel Johnston is pretty limited. I remember hearing "Speeding Motorcycle" and finding out it was a cover of a song he wrote. His original version is now in a Target commercial. Over the years, I've seen his name mentioned in interviews with bands. Every time someone mentioned him it was along the lines of "this guy is a whacked out genius songwriter." After watching the film, whacked out genius songwriter guy doesn't really cover it. Johnston can barely play the guitar and his singing voice is horrible. But he's undeniably a gifted songwriter and I can see how his performances can be captivating in a raw, visceral way. I probably wouldn't want to sit and listen to his music for a long period of time, but there's definitely something about the guy that's compelling. He's also a pretty prolific artist who draws constantly.
However, Johnston's artistic talent isn't what makes him such a fascinating subject for a documentary. He's also a manic depressive, which is shown in the film in great detail. Director Jeff Feuerzeig had a lot of great material to work with, including interviews with family and friends, home video footage and audio letters Johnston sent to friends. These elements are combined to create a richly detailed portrait of Johnston's life. As you see Johnston's rise to mythical underground musician status (thanks mostly to Kurt Cobain wearing his t-shirt in every photo he was in for several months), you also see the tragic story of what is, at times, almost complete mental disintegration. It's a truly compelling and fascinating story even if you have absolutely no interest in or knowledge of Johnston's music and artwork.
Feuerzeig won the Directing award at Sundance and the film has since been bought and will see a theatrical release sometime this year. Don't miss it. Posted on February 13, 2005 at 08:16 PM | Permalink

CommentsI liked The Devil and DJ as a film and wonder what will happen to DJ next. He has severe mental problems and wonder how he will fully get along when they pass. I also felt bad for the Broadway Danny Rose manager, he really believed in DJ and DJ blew it for him. But that happens throughout the film, just when DJ might break and do something big he shoots himself (figuratively) in the stomach and is left to wallow in pain and reconstruction for awhile.

I was really glad that the editor of the film was there for the screening because in lots of ways he made the film. That movie is nothing but two thousand hours of DJ video and audio clips, and it was up to the editor to make sense of it all. I really don't know how important the director was to the film when compared to the huge task of editor must have been.

As a movie, the Devil and DJ reminded me a lot of that guy who draws and writes that epic 10k + paged book, except DJ gets noticed before he is dead. But Into the Realms of the Unreal had no central character that we got to know, this movie we got lots of insight into his everyday life. In the end I would say DJ's life story is probably more interesting in a human life drama, than as the story of a great artist because I don't think he was a great artist but I certainly think he was a great story.