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Left on Purpose

Monday, May 9, 2016 - 6:45pm
Trailer(s)

Left on Purpose

Justin Schein and David Mehlman | 
USA |
 2015 | 
85 minutes

THIS FILM IS PART OF THE JUSTICE FORUM SERIES AND WILL INCLUDE A POST-FILM DISCUSSION.

In the 1960s, Mayer Vishner was part of the counterculture movement and was actively involved with Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies, legendary pranksters who levitated the Pentagon to protest the Vietnam War, disrupted the Democratic National Convention in 1968, and employed absurdity as a tool for revolution and change.

As director Justin Schein explains at the film’s outset, “I’ve been making documentaries for 20 years and I’ve never been so captivated or troubled by a film subject as much as Mayer Vishner.” A fixture of Greenwich Village, Mayer hung out with Jimmy Hendrix and John Lennon and worked as a journalist, as well as a stand-up comedian. His apartment is a treasure trove of counterculture mementos including bootleg recordings of Joan Baez, a signed copy of Ginsberg’s Howl, and a lock of John Lennon’s hair. Justin’s decision to make a film about Mayer’s life, leads both men in a very unexpected direction. As Justin gets more involved with Mayer, he comes to understand that things are going precipitously downhill. Drinking heavily, and living in squalor, Mayer is also suffering from OCD, severe depression, and is preparing to end his own life. He petitions Justin for his help in creating his final political act, a document of his death. The ethical and emotional complexities of choosing to end your own life are given cogent and thorough examination. But at the end of the film, very troubling questions linger. This is not a film that you will easily forget. And maybe that is precisely what Mayer Vishner wanted. -DW

WINNER OF AUDIENCE AWARDS AT THE WOODSTOCK FILM FESTIVAL AND DOC NYC.

Filmmaker

Justin Schein

Justin has been shooting and directing character-driven, social issue documentaries for more than 20 years. His film No Impact Man premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and has screened throughout the world. Justin received his master's degree in Documentary Film and Video Production from Stanford University and went on to found Shadowbox Films with fellow graduate David Mehlman in 1998. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, filmmaker Eden Wurmfeld, and their two children.