BAR HARBOR — A new feature documentary about Islesford’s Ashley Bryan will be shown at the Criterion Theatre on Saturday, July 16, at 7 p.m. Bryan will make a special appearance, and filmmakers Robert Shetterly and Richard Kane will take questions from the audience.
“I Know a Man … Ashley Bryan,” is a story about a beloved 93-year-old artist who skips and jumps in his mind like a child, yet is a spiritually deep creative genius, poet/illustrator of 50-plus children’s books and maker of magical puppets and seaglass windows from found objects inspired by his African heritage. Bryan lives on the Cranberry Isles and has been using art his entire life to celebrate joy, mediate the darkness of war and racism, explore the mysteries of faith and create loving community. His life story and the art he makes from this wellspring of experience are an inspiration to people of all ages.
The film opens with Bryan telling a group of awestruck children a hilarious rendition of the original tale from his new book “Can’t Scare Me.” But soon after, the film delves into the horrors he experienced in war. “Why does man choose war … that destroys everything you’ve built up?” he said. “I lived through the time of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and that did it.”
Bryan’s world as an African American experiencing racism also is explored. He quotes Marian Anderson, admonishing “to keep another down, you have to hold them down, and therefore cannot rise and soar to the potential within you.”
Bryan takes comfort in and spreads beauty through the spiritual content of his art – his linocut prints exhorting “Let My People Go” and his breathtaking seaglass windows of the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
The film’s trailer can be seen at vimeo.com. Funds for free distribution to schools and for educational support materials are being sought. Contact [email protected] for information.