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The unpredictable life of John Healy – award-winning author, internationally distinguished chess player and erstwhile alcoholic vagrant – is the subject of this stimulating new documentary by Paul Duane. Charting Healy’s violent upbringing in London’s Kentish Town slums as a child to Irish emigrant parents, and returning to the haunts where the writer slept, drank and fought in the ’60s and ’70s, the film provides an overview of the crucial lowlights of The Grass Arena, Healy’s breakthrough autobiography published by Faber in 1988 and universally acknowledged as a masterpiece.
However, Duane avoids the hazard of merely retracing the book’s steps, focussing instead on Healy’s fall from grace after his unlikely but meteoric rise to fame, due in part to an incident that arose from a profound lack of understanding with his publishers. As such, besides a sensitive portrait of an elusive man, Barbaric Geniusoffers a critique of a class-bound society that often fails to cater for its unique and most vulnerable talents. (Notes by Alice Butler.)Director Paul Duane will attend the opening night screening on May 25th at 19.20 after which there will be a Q&A.