In the Realms of the Unreal

Academy Award®-Winning Filmmaker Jessica Yu and Producer Susan West Explore the Parallel Lives of Outsider Artist Henry Darger

Sue West, 323/854-2823 or 818/260-4402,
Randall Cole, 415/356-8383, ext. 254,
Cara White, 843/881-1480,
Wilson Ling, 415/356-8383, ext. 231, 

Sue West, 323.854.2823 (cell)
Randall Cole, 415.425.3050 (cell)
Cara White, 843.224.1442 (cell)
Wilson Ling, 415.385-5239 (cell)
Jeremy Walker and Associates/ITVS Press Office, 435.649.2900, room 113 

(San Francisco, CA) – By day, janitor Henry Darger scrubbed floors, attended mass, rummaged through garbage cans and went through life virtually unnoticed. By night, he ruled a world in which the forces of innocence and good fought a bloody battle against the forces of treachery and evil. And, he created an artistic legacy that would earn him the notice he so eluded during his life. After Darger died quietly in a Catholic poor house in 1973, the landlords of the residence he occupied for over 40 years uncovered hundreds of brilliant and disturbingly beautiful paintings. They also found the other half of Darger's life's work: the more than 15,000-page novel, In the Realms of the Unreal, an epic story of the virtuous Vivian girls — seven angelic sisters who lead a rebellion against godless, child-enslaving men. Presented by ITVS (Independent Television Service), IN THE REALMS OF THE UNREAL, from Academy Award®-winning director Jessica Yu and producer Susan West, brings to life the hidden universe of Henry Darger. 

Featuring the voices of Dakota Fanning (I AM SAM, CAT IN THE HAT) and Larry Pine (THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, THE ICE STORM), and the music of Emmy-winning composer Jeff Beal, this innovative film has been selected for the Documentary Competition at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The feature-length documentary chronicles Henry Darger's life, beginning with his traumatic childhood that brought the loss of his mother and baby sister. At age 7, Darger's disabled father sent him to a boys' home and then to an asylum for troubled children. His father's subsequent death left Darger a young orphan. After escaping from the asylum at age 17, Darger retreated into a wholly internal world. Working as a janitor, he remained friendless throughout his life and many dismissed him as crazy. But Darger's fantasy life was as rich, colorful and exhilarating as his real life was tedious. 

By juxtaposing these parallel yet opposite universes, IN THE REALMS OF THE UNREAL shows how the enigmatic, self-taught artist forged magic out of the bleakest of lives. The film brings Darger's own voice to life through the use of his first-person writings that include a remarkable 2,500-page autobiography. Through complex animation, the film is able to enter Darger's paintings, and thanks to permission from his former landlords (who kept his room intact for nearly 30 years), the film moves through Darger's physical world as well. Darger lived his life virtually unnoticed, and the ultimate meaning of his work remains an enigma. The film begins as a mystery, but ends as a celebration of the power of individual creativity. The documentary captures the haunting imprint of an extraordinary, ordinary man. 

IN THE REALMS OF THE UNREAL is a production of Diorama Films, LLC.,and is a presentation of the Independent Television Service. IN THE REALMS OF THE UNREAL is one of seven ITVS-funded films presented at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. 

About ITVS 
Independent Television Service (ITVS) funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the web and the weekly series Independent Lens on Tuesday nights at 10pm on PBS. ITVS is a miracle of public policy created by media activists, citizens and politicians seeking to foster plurality and diversity in public television. ITVS was established by a historic mandate of Congress to champion independently produced programs that take creative risks, spark public dialogue and serve underserved audiences. Since its inception in 1991, ITVS programs have revitalized the relationship between the public and public television, bringing TV audiences face-to-face with the lives and concerns of their fellow Americans. More information about ITVS can be obtained by visiting ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people. 

About PBS 
PBS, headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, is a private, nonprofit media enterprise owned and operated by the nation's 349 public television stations. Serving nearly 90 million people each week, PBS enriches the lives of all Americans through quality programs and education services on noncommercial television, the internet and other media. More information about PBS is available at, the leading dot-org web site on the internet.


Posted on January 20, 2004