Monday, 6 September 2010

American: The Bill Hicks Story

Bill Hicks
Bill Hicks, Montreal.
"Hysterically funny and deeply moving tribute to a true American outlaw" Daily Mirror

"An immersive, inventive delve into the life of a stand-up visionary" Empire Magazine

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) presents a Long Play season of the innovative documentary, American: The Bill Hicks Story (2010) the definitive portrait of the razor sharp comedian Bill Hicks.  The film takes an intimate look at Hick's life and his bold and belligerent takes on drugs, politics, religion, philosophy and the 'American Dream' which remain as relevant today, more than a decade after his death in 1994.

Fifteen years after his death Bill Hicks is now more popular than ever, and is widely seen as on of the best comedians of the modern era. However in America, where he challenged institutions and societal norms, he suffered from censorship and was never truly recognised by a wide audience. In the country which enshrines freedom of speech in its constitution his story is truly about what it means to be an American.

American: The Bill Hicks Story follows Hicks from his youth living in Houston, Texas in the 1970s with his strict Southern Baptist parents, when with the aid of like-minded friends the 15 year-old began sneaking out to perform at the newly opened Comix Annex in Houston.  In 1987 he moved to New York City, and, for the next five years, performed about 300 times a year. As his work progressed his comedy took on wider themes, and he began hitting out at the targets of the day - fundamentalist religion, the Reagan administration and 80s pop culture.

The film also touches on Hicks struggle with drink and drugs, from his early experiments to expand his consciousness and his comedy, to his time with the Texas Outlaw Comics who not only nurtured and helped to grow his comedy but his alcohol and drug problem which on several occasions threatened his life.  His time in rehab succeeded in getting Hicks sober and led him to traveling to Canada and the UK where he exploded with sell out tours to mesmerized crowds as he skewered the US media and his own government's war mongering with material few other comics dared to touch.

He was poised to become a major voice in America when in June 1993 at the age of 31 Hicks was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. With the clock ticking as his health deteriorated, he redoubled his efforts to record new material, attempting to reach audiences by confronting them with the truth that the 'American Dream' had turned sour.

Even after his death in 1994 his success continued with bootleg VHS tapes of his performances traveling between the US, Australia and the UK, while his record company reported that Hick's CD's sold more each year - with no advertising. This only increased with the advent of the internet, where Hick's work spread like wildfire on YouTube.

ACMI Film Programmer Kristy Matheson says "Bill Hicks really springs back to life with the filmmakers clever use of animation, rare footage and the accounts of those who really knew the outlaw comedian.  This is a refreshingly (un)star-studded account of an unforgettable life".

Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas are both British directors and producers who conducted over 100 hours of new in-depth interviews with Bill Hicks' close family and friends and spent the last three years making American: The Bill Hicks Story.  Harlock created the official Bill Hicks tribute nights in London, featuring a rare video footage programme, which led to a relationship with the Hicks family who offered him access to 1300 photos and unseen VHS footage to make the definitive Bill Hicks documentary. Thomas with his additional animation experience became involved and together they developed an innovative documentary approach to tell the story of a unique man.  The visuals in the film feature these thousands of archival photographs animated together to recreate scenes and conversations from Bill Hicks life, which is told from the point of view of the people closest to hi all interspersed with rarely seen performance footage of Hicks.

The Long Play season of American: The Bill Hicks Story will screen Thursday 4 November - Tuesday 23 November, 2010.

For more information and session times please click here.

Matt Harlock, Paul Thomas, 110 mins, UK, 2009, Digital Betacam, B&W and Colour. Source: Madman Entertainment. Courtesy: Madman Entertainment.

Further information

Claire Butler
Communications Coordinator
[direct phone] 61 3 8663 2415 [fax] 61 3 8663 2498 [mobile] 0434 603 654
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