Screened as part of NZIFF 2005

In the Realms of the Unreal 2004

Directed by Jessica Yu

A fascinating examination of the mysterious life and the truly bizarre art of outsider artist Henry Darger.

USA In English
81 minutes 35mm

Director, Screenplay, Editor


Tim Bieber
Shana Hagan
Russell Harper


David Wigforss


Jeff Beal


Dakota Fanning


Henry Darger is probably the world’s best known ‘outsider artist’. When he died aged 81 in 1973, a loner and recluse, his Chicago landlady was astonished to find a lifetime’s worth of artwork crammed into his tiny apartment: 300 paintings and 30,000 pages of writing, including his magnum opus – The Realms of the Unreal, a 15-volume illustrated novel. Central to the novel are the Vivian Girls, seven blond Kewpie doll-like heroines who lead enslaved children in perpetual revolt against male captors who seem to be modeled on the Confederate army. The pictures are unsettling montages of childlike innocence and gruesome violence rendered all the more perverse by Darger’s apparent assumption that little girls have little penises. Jessica Yu’s fascinating documentary takes the amazing liberty of animating Darger’s paintings to introduce us to the bizarre universe of his imagination.

“A spry, creative response to Darger’s oceanic talent and claustrophobic life… The decision to animate his artwork could have been disastrous but the result is a triumph.” — Ed Park, Village Voice