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Fri, Jun 25


Epsilon Spires

Jean-Michel Basquiat: DOWNTOWN '81

A rare real-life snapshot of the creative energy and subculture of post-punk era New York City, starring a then-unknown, 19-year-old Jean-Michel Basquiat as a penniless, newly-evicted young artist wandering the streets and clubs of Manhattan as he searches for a mystery woman and a place to crash.

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Jean-Michel Basquiat: DOWNTOWN '81
Jean-Michel Basquiat: DOWNTOWN '81

Time & Location

Jun 25, 2021, 8:00 PM – 10:30 PM

Epsilon Spires, 190 Main St, Brattleboro, VT 05301, USA

About the event

Every Friday this Summer, Epsilon Spires transforms the parking lot into an outdoor cinema!

Picture a picnic under the stars with your friends where you are entertained by innovative films projected on the big screen. Our programming celebrates cinema past and present, both popular and experimental, highlighting diverse creative voices from around the world. Space is limited and advanced booking encouraged!

June 25th, DOWNTOWN '81 (1981/2000) 8pm Doors / Film begins at Sundown, 8:33. 

Downtown '81 was a collaboration between writer and Warhol associate Glenn O’Brien, Swiss photographer Edo Bertoglio and Jean-Michel Basquiat, then a 19 year old graffiti innovator and noise musician who’d just begun to exhibit his paintings. This freewheeling urban fairytale is a seductively absorbing record of the art, music, and energy of bohemian New York at a time when punk, no wave, and hip-hop were all shaking the underground. Featuring a who’s-who of luminaries—including Debbie Harry, Arto Lindsay, Fab 5 Freddy, James Chance, and Kid Creole— Originally titled "New York Beat", the film was shot in 1981 but was not completed for nearly two decades and was first shown at Cannes in 2000.


"Through much of  Downtown '81, Jean-Michel Basquiat walks the streets of New York with a painting under his arm. The painting is, by all accounts, one of the first Basquiat ever created. Like everyone in this not-really fictional film of New York’s early 1980s underground scene, Basquiat plays a version of himself. At the time of the film’s shooting Basquiat was a 19-year-old graffiti artist unknown to the larger art world. He was homeless. He slept in the film’s production office during the course of the shoot. The filmmakers gave him his first canvases and paints so he could create the painting we see him/his character carry." -Jeanne Claire van Ryzin, Sightline

"After a six-week shoot New York Beat was completed in April 1981 and later lost thanks to a long and complex tussle involving Italian producers and a FreeMason scandal that included a prime minister, military leaders, clergymen and businessmen. When the film was finally salvaged in 1999, the audio tapes couldn’t be found so fashion designer Maripol tracked down everyone who appeared in it, to come back and record their bits. The poet Saul Williams stepped in to dub Basquiat’s lines, after the artist’s death in 1989. While the legend of Basquiat looms over Downtown 81, the film remains a fruit of the collective labor of a community of artists living with the anxiety of significant impending changes. It’s perhaps not a magical portal but an always-open, inviting one that promises a journey to a lost city of artists and roadside fairies where Basquiat sits on a chair, drawing on Man Ray portraits with a Sharpie. -Hyperallergic

Layout & Tickets: *Entry Includes Raffle Ticket for Gift Certificates to Local Businesses!

We encourage our guests to come as if to a picnic – so bring your own blankets, cushions or folding chairs to sit – you want to be comfortable so bring all the coziness you need!

Bar and local food vendors on site. Restrooms provided.

In the case of rain the event will be moved into our Sanctuary, which will have socially distanced seating and co-vid precautions in place.


  • Admission to Backlot Cinema!

    Ticket for one person- includes entry into the Raffle! Please choose your seating with respect for others and let us know if you require special arrangements. Enjoy the program!

    Sale ended



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