HISTORY OF THE FILM – Over 40 years in the making

HISTORY OF THE FILM – Over 40 years in the making


In 1969, filmmaker Robert M. Young was approached by professor James Maas of Cornell University to make a film about “psychotic art”. When Robert Young saw William Kurelek’s painting The Maze in Maas’s slide collection, he knew that he had to make a film about the man who painted it. “What was so remarkable about this painting to me”, says director Robert M. Young, “was that I felt I was looking into someones mind. It had in it his sexuality, his fears, his questions about whether he was really even human… and a self awareness and understanding that he was being observed by doctors and he was curious himself as to whether or not he was mental at the time he created the painting. It’s a painting that really encompasses very much in a person’s life.”

Partnered with filmmaker David Grubin, Robert M. Young set out on his quest to document and tell Kurelek’s story. A short version of the film was originally made in 1969 for educational classes to help demonstrate the strong relationship between art and psychology. In 1973, the American Film Festival named it outstanding educational documentary of the year and it went on to be studied and used in classrooms. To this day, professors of psychology and art therapy attest that there is no other film like it. But the story does not end here.

Robert M. Young filming "The Maze" - 1969

David Grubin, Robert M. Young and Wiiliam Kurelek. -1969

A longer and more complex version of the film was worked on in the cutting room but was never completed and became lost. Over 40 years later, the longer version was recovered and brought to life by Robert M. Young’s sons, Nick Young and Zack Young, who took a passionate interest in completing their father’s work into the final film now being released today.

Brothers Nick and Zack Young, who also comprise the Los Angeles based rock band A.i. (once signed to Dreamworks and now independent – aimusic.com), have expanded the film with an original score and modern digital animation techniques to take the viewer inside Kurelek’ssurrealistic world of art. “We feel that the longer version of the film that the public has yet to see gives a much deeper insight into Kurelek’s story,” says Nick. “We’ve been able to track down just about all of the paintings in the original film as well as others and have rephotographed them with equipment that was not available to our father when he made the original film. There is so much detail and hidden meaning in these paintings and William Kurelek’s story becomes all the more compelling when one experiences in High Definition what a masterful artist he was.”

Nick Young filming William Kurelek's paintings. - 2011

The film will be featured in Canada at the first major retrospective of William Kurelek’s art in over 25 years at three major museums across Canada in 2011-2012. More information on the upcoming exhibitions, titled William Kurelek: The Messenger can be found at www.kurelek.ca.

May 25, 7:15 pm, at Cinecenta, 3800 Finnerty Road, University of Victoria

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