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I Am Divine

Quebec Premiere
  • USA
  • 2013
  • 90 mins
  • HD
  • English
Official Selection, SXSW 2013
Official Selection, Sheffield Doc/Fest 2013

“Top notch… a great film and an even greater tribute” - Chris, MIDNITE TICKET

“Captures the exuberant spirit of a time in which difference brought together like minds and changed attitudes” - Mark James, FILM SCHOOL REJECTS

“This is the film that Divine deserves, and thank goodness we are here to reap the benefits” - Josh Hurtado, TWITCHFILM

Harris Glen Milstead had a childhood that could most politely be described as “uncomfortable” — his weight, unusual interests, and borderline feminine mannerisms making him a target for bullying and ostracism. In his late teens, he began venturing out into Baltimore’s mid-’60s counter-culture and drag scenes, and his life exploded. Meeting John Waters, he found his ultimate prankster-enabler. Through the two of them, Divine was born — and underground cinema was forever transfigured. Through landmark boundary-pushing “trash” works like MULTIPLE MANIACS and PINK FLAMINGOS, and more accessible, yet equally outrageous and singular, films like HAIRSPRAY and CRY BABY, Divine became an icon of rogue cinema and alt shock culture, partying with celebrities, amassing an arsenal of groupies and living a life of excess that was an ultimate misfit’s redemption for his previous existence of shyness and social discomfort.

This is the story of an outsider who succeeded against all odds, a man who took, in Waters’ words, drag “to the level of anarchy” and went from eating dogshit on camera to being a red-carpet Hollywood star without ever compromising, all while waging a playful war against conventional beauty, gender identification and virtually every social norm. It’s safe to say, this is a tale unlike any you’ve ever been told.

In his quest to make the definitive Divine doc, Jeffrey Schwarz (SPINETINGLER: THE WILLIAM CASTLE STORY) has left no stone unturned, speaking to everyone you could ever hope to hear from and unearthing rare archival footage that will be new to even the most avid fan. I AM DIVINE covers everything — Milstead’s childhood and domestic strife (when he came out to his parents, his mother told him to “forget you have a mother and father”), the Dreamland roots, his move to New York City and the punk/disco side-careers that followed, up to his tragically premature death, just days before starting to shoot on MARRIED… WITH CHILDREN. Waters’s humorous recollections run throughout the film, lending an insight that nobody else could bring. You’ll also hear from Mink Stole, Ricki Lake, Tab Hunter, Holly Woodlawn and a wealth of others. Most importantly, you’ll get loads of moments with Milstead, whose larger-than-larger-than-life personality all but bursts through the screen. A rollicking and touching tribute, I AM DIVINE will take you through an incredible journey that’s as funny, outrageous and inspirational as the man at its centre.

— Mitch Davis