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BAYOU MAHARAJAH THE TRAGIC GENIUS OF JAMES BOOKER

USA, 2013 (MIFF 2013, Backbeat)

Director: Lily Keber

"The best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced." - Dr John

A run-in with a jukebox in New Orleans was all director Lily Keber needed to know that James Booker was special. But who was he? Here she unveils an all-but-forgotten mad genius of jazz and blues piano, adored by artists from Harry Connick Jr to Bon Iver.

This ‘60s outcast, marginalised by his sexuality, disability and race, was plagued by paranoid conspiracy theories and known for his outrageous behaviour, such as appearing on stage in a nappy and demanding drugs to play. But he was also an unparalleled musical genius, revered from New Orleans to Europe for his breathtaking ability to blend a Rachmaninoff tune with Sinatra, gospel with gutbucket. He performed with Aretha Franklin, Jerry Garcia and Ringo Starr, and reportedly never played the same set twice. His instrumental cult hit Gonzo was rumoured to have inspired Hunter S Thompson's journalistic moniker.

With Bayou Maharajah, Keber has compiled transfixing, exclusive performance footage with rare photos and a line up of acclaimed musicians to reveal an uplifting but ultimately tragic conjurer of the music of the soul.

"Ecstatic, sorrowful, beautiful, pained, full of anger, joy and something otherworldly." - Austin360.com

Producer Nathaniel Kohn is a guest of the festival.

D Lily Keber P Lily Keber, Nathaniel Kohn WS Mairzy Doats Productions TD HD Cam/2013

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