Divine Trash

Photo Courtesy of the Sundance Film Festival

Jim Jarmusch Profile, by Thom Bennett

As a boy, filmmaker John Waters would sneak out of the house to watch underground films through binoculars outside the drive-in movie theater. His formal film training consisted of five minutes at NYU film school, where he found he would rather watch Olga's House of Shame instead of Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin.

Steve Yeager's documentary Divine Trash is an in-depth look at the making of Waters's Pink Flamingos, the most successful and arguably most important underground film ever made. Divine, aka Harris Glenn Milstead, the star of the film, was Waters's greatest discovery and one of his closest friends. A mix of Clarabell the clown and Jayne Mansfield, Divine gave new meaning to the term "drag queen"--some even compared her to Godzilla. Rare archival footage of a young, long-haired Waters, and interviews with actors, relatives, and film scholars reveal how passionate and serious he was about filmmaking.

Not everyone is a fan, though. Mary Avara of the now-extinct Maryland Film Censor Board says if she could, she would give all his films a rating of "RT" for Real Trash. She may be responsible for jump-starting Waters's career.

Steve Yeager captures the respect, dedication, and love that the Pink Flamingos family had for each other and for Waters's unique vision. John Waters puts it best when he describes Divine, who died in 1988, as an actor "who started his career playing a homicidal maniac and ended it playing a loving mother--which is a pretty good stretch, especially when you're a three- hundred-pound man."

- Mary Kerr

Directed by: Steve Yeager
Starring: Steve Buscemi, Jim Jarmusch
Produced by: Steve Yeager
Original Music by: Dan Barto

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