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Now Streaming


$12.00 for 48-hour rental. Your rental helps support Film Forum.

Playing in Virtual Cinema.

Directed & Produced by Jeffrey Wolf. Executive Produced by Sam Pollard.

NY Times Critic's Pick

NY Times Critic's Pick

On a street corner in bustling Montgomery, Alabama in 1939, a homeless man in his 80s sat every day, painting and drawing. Born into slavery, Bill Traylor had moved to the city with little means and in ill health after 60 years of farm labor. On discarded cardboard, he created over 1,000 scenes from his plantation and farming days, and also the urban life he observed.  His images of mostly people and animals are at once playful and political, vibrant and mysterious. Traylor, who died in 1949, would not live to see the scale of his unlikely success: acquisitions by the High Museum of Art, the Schomburg Center, and MoMA; and exhibits featuring his work at the Corcoran Gallery, Studio Museum in Harlem, the American Folk Art Museum, David Zwirner Gallery, and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, where in 2019 his was the first major retrospective by an artist born into slavery. Through interviews with family members, artists, curators and critics, inventively interspersed with dramatic readings, dance, and original music, BILL TRAYLOR: CHASING GHOSTS reveals Traylor’s unmatched gift for translating oral culture into a powerful and wholly original visual medium, and provides a window into the life of a remarkable self-taught artist and the massive social and cultural changes to which his work testifies.

Presented with support from the Richard Brick, Geri Ashur and Sara Bershtel Fund for Social Justice Documentaries; the Helen Frankenthaler Endowed Fund for Films on Art, and the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation Fund.

2020    75 MINS.    USA      KINO LORBER

Virtual Cinema program supported by the Robert Gore Rifkind Foundation.


“Bill Traylor’s art speaks to the universal language of humanity – a cry for justice, dignity and resilience.”
– Andrew J. Young Jr., 14th U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

“An extraordinary artist…Traylor’s pictures stamp themselves on your eye and mind… (nothing) impaired the humor and subtlety of his imagination. Traylor’s art generates a presence at once mighty and fugitive, forever just around the corner of being understood.”
– Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker (on Traylor’s work)

“... in Traylor, we can see the power of individual voice. The work is transcendent and essential.”
– Jerry Saltz, New York Magazine

“(The film) brings the spirit and mystery of Traylor’s art to life and shines a spotlight on a creative gift that was long ignored and marginalized.”
– Dave McNarry, Variety

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