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Laura Blum

Laura is a festival correspondent covering films and the festival circuit for She also publishes on Thalo



Filmmaker Oren Jacoby Beams Light on “Shadowman” and Artist Richard Hambleton

“Who is the Shadowman?” asked 80s headlines about the black, phantom-like figures haunting the New York landscape. Now along comes an impressive answer in the documentary Shadowman, about their creator. Given that he is the elusive street art pioneer Richard Hambleton, mysteries still abound after the closing credits. But that’s much to the film’s credit. A beguiling portrait of the artist and his era, it leaves us raring to fathom more.  

Some eight years in the making, Shadowman follows Hambleton through both the exhilarations and devastations of his often homeless, strung-out life. How the disease-stricken junkie is still breathing, much less churning out exquisite work, defies reason, unless that reason is pure creative impulse. As we watch Hambleton attack his surfaces each time anew, one thing is patent: his love of painting is his lifeline.

Enriched by vivid archival footage and stills and insightful conversations with devotees, the takes show Hambleton as a doer and not so much an explainer. Not that we’d especially need chatty annotation from a subject whose work packs such a visceral punch. To fill in some blanks, caught up with the film’s director, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Oren Jacoby (Constantine’s Sword, Sister Rose’s Passion). We spoke by phone during the Tribeca Film Festival (April 19-30), where Shadowman is vying in the documentary competition. Here's our conversation: