Books of James

2006 | Abuse / Activism / AIDS/HIV / American Studies / Arts & Literature / Biography/History / Censorship / Documentary / Experimental / Human Rights / Media Studies / Social Issues | 17m | Canada | USA
Directors: Ho Tam

Inspired by a collection of personal notebooks, Books of James is an experimental documentary on art, AIDS and activism. Based on the writing, drawing, video footage and personal revelation of James Wentzy, an artist/activist in New York City, the film illustrates the 30-year timeline from the late 1970s to the mid-aughts, examining the changes in the social and political landscape of America.

Following James from South Dakota to New York City, the film traces his days from struggling and surviving as an artist to later becoming an AIDS video activist. In showcasing a unique individual through his involvement with the fight against AIDS and his tireless frontline reportage of the crisis, Books of James is an intimate portrait of a neglected everyman/hero and unearths a time now forgotten.

Reviews and Awards

Outstanding Artistic Achievement Award, Outfest

Grand Marnier Film Fellowship, Film Society of the Lincoln Center

“ … a quietly engrossing bio-doc about a gay everyman, based on the personal notebooks and other musings of New Yorker James Wentzy … Watching this feels like being a voyeur in a modern-day, gay incarnation of Camus’s Outsider.”—John Terauds, Toronto Star