Magazine article Variety

Demme Wrapped Others in His World of Joy

Magazine article Variety

Demme Wrapped Others in His World of Joy

Article excerpt

Jonathan was everybody's cheerleader. He was like an embarrassing grandpa at a Little League game. After every accomplishment he'd hug you so tight and do that little J.D. dance. He might even hum that crazy "yeah" in a weird baby voice right in your eardrum while he shook you a little. As if his entire purpose was to wrap your self-worth in the blanket of his joy. For all of his wild enthusiasm and childlike positivity, he could be laser focused on the art at hand. It might all feel free and haphazard in the moment but there was a fierce conductor on that train. He knew where he was going, and he was stubborn enough to never release his eyes from the destination.

When he sent letters or emails they were scrawled with "I wuv yoooos!!!" He might as well have been saying, "The circus is in town!!!" Equally, when he felt wronged or when he felt injustice being waged, he was a scary tiger.

Jonathan saw art as a way to "become." Finding your place in the world, figuring out what you believe in by standing up for something. He saw himself in the characters that had been leftout, marginalized, underrepresented. The small woman, the longsuffering slave, the gay man grappling with AIDS... His camera was fighting to be heard with dignity and purpose.

J.D.'s film world was a family, a community of loyal merry men and women. Every film set felt like a dance party. There was Aloha Shirt Friday and Rasta music at wrap. He put friends and crew members in the scenes as extras or even day players. …

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