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Frontman of 2 Live Crew is the subject of surreal Sundance short

Published January 25, 2012 4:17 pm

Sundance • Luther Campbell's life is documented in an adaptation of a 1962 French film.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Back when Luther Campbell was the leader of the legendary foul-mouthed rap group 2 Live Crew, the 1962 French film "La Jetée" was never name-checked in songs such as "We Want Some P——," "Me So Horny" or "If You Believe in Having Sex."

But Campbell is now very familiar with that pioneering sci-fi film, since a short at the Sundance Film Festival, "Life and Freaky Times of Uncle Luke," is a remake of "La Jetée."

"They had to keep explaining ['La Jetée'] to me," admitted Campbell, 51, also known as Uncle Luke. "I said, these guys are real artists."

The 13-minute short, directed by Miami-based Jillian Mayer and executive produced by Evan Rosenfeld, is a unique look at the life of Campbell, whose career has included essentially inspiring the "Parental Advisory" sticker now placed on CDs, as well as winning a Supreme Court case about obscenity and eventually running for mayor of Miami.

The comedic, surreal film tells his story through a series of still photographs (like "La Jetée"). Its style can be explained, in part, by the background of Mayer, whose background is as a contemporary artist. Until this film, Mayer said she had never shot a proper short film.

The germ of the idea for the short came from Rosenfeld, who until recently lived in Miami. He had interviewed Campbell in a segment for ESPN Films' "30 for 30" documentary series tied to the station's 30th anniversary. That's when he realized that Campbell — a gregarious man and generous supporter of the Miami arts community — would be a good subject for a film.

Campbell said his decision to participate was based "more about helping some kids" rather than seeking fame, primarily because at the time he was busy campaigning for the mayor's office. (He came in fourth, winning 11 percent of the vote, in 2011.)

"They basically turned me loose," Campbell said. "They wanted the funny guy. I can't say there's any real acting going on."

Because of Campbell's busy campaign schedule — his mayoral platform included a proposal to tax strippers — much of the shoot was filmed at night. "The most challenging thing is convincing your friends to give up sleep," Mayer said.

The two people who portray evil scientists in the film have full-time jobs. There was more chaos on the shoot after a crew member got in a car accident while on a late-night pizza run.

But the film turned out better than expected. "I was stunned," Rosenfeld said.

"I died laughing," Campbell said after seeing the short film for the first time. "It was one of the funniest things I've ever seen. It's hilarious, but it's a hell of an art piece."

Campbell liked the film so much that he's lobbying for more. "I've been approached by so many people to do a 90-minute feature [on me]," he said. "I think it's a story that needs to be told. I do need 90 minutes."

Rosenfeld also believes Campbell would be a good subject for a full-length feature. "There's more chapters to be told," Rosenfeld said.

Campbell's confident that a full-length documentary about him will be so interesting that he'll be returning to the Sundance Film Festival.

"One day, maybe we'll be talking again," he told a reporter.

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Last screening of "Shorts Program V"

The program includes the short film about Luther Campbell, "Live and Freaky Times of Uncle Luke."

Friday, Jan. 27, 1 p.m. • Holiday Village Cinema 4, Park City