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THE LIFE OF SEAN DELEAR

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by Markus Zizenbacher

grade: 7.5

The Life of Sean DeLear is in no way intended to show us a personal drama. On the contrary, what we are faced with is a sparkling, lively, cheerful, ironic and self-ironic documentary. A true hymn to life, to a life for which one has fought so hard. At the Frameline Film Festival 2024.

Portrait of a legend

A journey through the atmosphere of Los Angeles of the 1990s and 2000s. A true visual and auditory experience that takes us by the hand into a world we are so fond of, while showing it to us from a new, interesting perspective. We are talking about The Life of Sean DeLear, the first full-length documentary by Austrian director Markus Zizenbacher, premiered at the Frameline Film Festival 2024.

Sean DeLear (1964 – 2017) moved to Vienna in 2010. On this occasion, he and Zizenbacher met. Thus, following the premature death of the artist and musician, his life, thanks to testimonies, interviews and archive images (many of which were filmed, at the time, by DeLear himself, his legendary video diaries) used almost like so many pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, has been magically reconstructed for the movie screen in a work, this The Life of Sean DeLear, which is not only meant to be a tribute to him, but which faithfully portrays a world of magnetic charm that deserves to be known (even) more closely.

It is the 27th of August, Sean DeLear’s birthday. The camera moves frantically through the streets of Los Angeles before arriving at the party and, at the same time, offers us often oblique shots. The desire to live one’s life to the fullest, to finally feel free to run, at night, through the streets of a city where one could finally be oneself is evident already from these first images. And so, this interesting The Life of Sean DeLear, while following a chronological order in telling us about the protagonist’s life, develops mainly on two levels (the past and, of course, the present, where many remember him), within a strong narrative structure.

Young Sean was very close to his father, who died prematurely. At the same time, however, he never felt truly understood by his mother and brother, within a family in which religion had always played a central role. But how difficult would life have been for a young queer black man, who for the first time found himself far from home, in a big city, and completely broke? Yet, our protagonist managed to establish himself, to become a true style icon, to prove his talent as an artist.

The Life of Sean DeLear, therefore, gives us a faithful portrait of the artist – affectionately called SeanDe by everyone – together with a glimpse into a world in which, despite the enthralling music, crazy nights and glittering colours, there is no shortage of shadows (HIV was still quite widespread at the time). And in seeing the smiling face of the protagonist in front of the camera, we cannot fail to notice a vcertain melancholy as well. Yet, despite this, The Life of Sean DeLear is in no way meant to show us a personal drama. On the contrary, what we are faced with is a sparkling, lively, cheerful, ironic and self-ironic documentary. A true hymn to life, to a life for which one has fought so hard. Similarly to his youthful diaries, recently published in the book I Could Not Believe It, which is still being read today.

Original title: The Life of Sean DeLear
Directed by: Markus Zizenbacher
Country/year: Austria / 2024
Running time: 82’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Markus Zizenbacher
Cinematography: Markus Zizenbacher, Aleksey Lapin
Produced by: Markus Zizenbacher

Info: the page of The Life of Sean DeLear on iMDb: the page of The Life of Sean DeLear on the website of the sixpackfilm