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Year: 2004
USA: Wellspring
UK: ICA Projects
Cast: Henry Darger, Dakota Fanning, Larry Pine
Director: Jessica Yu
Country: USA
USA & UK: 81 mins
USA Release Date: 21 January 2005 (Limited Release)
USA Release Date: 22 December 2004 (Limited Release)
UK Release Date: 29 July 2005

UK Distributor


This innovative feature length documentary, directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Jessica Yu and produced by Susan West, explores the parallel lives of legendary outsider artist Henry Darger. Reclusive janitor by day, visionary artist by night, Darger's 15,000-page novel details the exploits of the Vivian Girls, seven angelic sisters who lead a rebellion against godless, child-enslaving men. Featuring the voices of Dakota Fanning (I AM SAM, CAT IN THE HAT) and Larry Pine (THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, THE ICE STORM), the music of Emmy-winning composer Jeff Beal and the work of a team of animators, this wholly original film tells the story of a hidden universe.

About Henry Darger

In 1973, at a Catholic poor house in Chicago, an 81 year-old retired janitor quietly died. His name was Henry Darger. Just months earlier, he had moved from the rented room where he had lived for over 40 years. When his landlords, Nathan and Kiyoko Lerner, cleaned out the clutter room, they discovered paintings: hundreds of brilliant watercolors, some over 10 feet long. The images were disturbing and mysteriously beautiful: little girls frolicking under stormy skies, little girls fighting soldiers, little girls being rescued by fantastic winged creatures. In many images, the girls were drawn naked, with penises.

The landlords soon found the other half of Darger's life's work, perhaps the longest novel ever written: the more than 15,000 page, single-spaced typed In the Realms of the Unreal, an epic story of the virtuous Vivian girls and their religious war against the evil Glandelinian army. For most of his life, Henry Darger, a recluse whom others called "Crazy," had lived in this rich fantasy world. It was a world he had kept to himself.

Today, Henry Darger is considered to be one of America's foremost outsider artists: an untaught artist working in isolation from the commercial or public eye. IN THE REALMS OF THE UNREAL, an adventurous documentary feature, explores the fantastic vision and shadowy life of this enigmatic artist.

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