Steven Sebrings‘s film Patti Smith: Dream of Life premiered at Sundance on Sunday. Steven is a fashion photographer and he has been working on the film for the past twelve years since meeting Patti on a shoot for Spin magazine. Shot entirely on 16mm (unheard of these days), the film is an impressionistic portrait of an artist, a far cry from the standard artist bios one is used to. Full of Smith’s poetry, vintage performance and themes of loss and life, Steven brings a visual style that complements Smith’s own work. The overall tone is elegiac, and ultimately hopeful. Patti pays tribute to artists who have been a part of her life and an inspiration to her work: Rimbaud, William Burroughs, Robert Mapplethorpe, Bob Dylan, William Blake, Jim Morrison and, of course, her late husband Fred “Sonic” Smith.
During the Q&A Smith and Sebring talked about their collaboration. According to Smith and Sebring trust is the essential element in their relationship that has developed through their many years of working together. The film was enthusiastically received by the audience. Patti’s son Jackson (now 25) who was sitting behind me, had the loudest laugh in the theater as he watched himself as a thirteen year old on screen wearing a knight’s helmet (you had to be there!) that had been given to him by the band on his birthday.
The evening culminated in an amazingly intimate concert by Patti and her band at the overheated Kimball Arts Center — probably the coolest event of the festival (more photos). She gave a dynamic performance including “Gloria” and a wonderful cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which she called a “great American folk song.” The film now goes on to screen at the Berlin Film Festival and should have a theatrical release later this year. The film will have its television premiere on POV in 2009.