Coming to DVD today, Friday, October 14: BAYOU MAHARAJAH
Lily Keber’s portrait of an unsung piano genius debuted at SXSW in 2013. Screenings followed at New Orleans, Melbourne, Krakow, Hawaii, Little Rock, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Sound + Vision, among other events.
Self-described as the “Black Liberace,” gay, black, one-eyed New Orleans piano player James Booker sold himself short by comparing himself to anyone, as Keber’s affectionate profile reveals. Described as a true genius by influential musician Allen Toussaint, Booker had his own unique musical style, and started playing professionally while still a teenager, working with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Little Richard, and Fats Domino. He also struggled with alcohol and drug addiction and had mental health issues, resulting in a wild personality and a tendency towards self-destruction that undercut his talent and chances for larger success. While somewhat holding back on fully fleshing out her subject, Keber wisely incorporates a great deal of performance footage to let Booker’s music speak for him.