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2 Live Crew's Luther Campbell the subject of Sundance short

Back when Luther Campbell was the leader of the legendarily 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 well 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."

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"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 the "Parental Advisory" sticker, winning a Supreme Court case about obscenity, and eventually running for mayor of Miami.

The comedic, surreal film’s uniqueness, where the short is told through a series of still photographs (like "La Jetée"), can in part be explained by the background of Mayer, who previously was more involved in the contemporary arts community than film. Until this film, she had never shot a proper short film, she told The Tribune.

The germ of the idea for the film 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 ESPN’s 30th anniversary, and realized that Campbell — a gregarious man and generous supporter of the Miami arts community — had a life deserving of 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 schedule campaigning for higher office (with a platform that included taxing strippers), much of the shoot was done at night. "The most challenging thing is convincing your friends to give up sleep," Mayer said. The two evil scientists in the film have full-time jobs, and adding more chaos to the filming was a crew member getting in a car accident while on a late-night pizza run.

But once the film was finished, it won kudos from both Rosenfeld and Campbell.

"I was stunned," Rosenfeld said.

"I died laughing," Campbell said about his first time seeing the short. "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 is now 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 believes in Campbell’s vision of a full-length feature. "There’s more chapters to be told," Rosenfeld said.

Campbell was confident that once a full-length documentary was made, it would be so interesting that it would just have to be accepted by the Sundance Film Festival.

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

Screening of "Shorts Program V":

Time Venue City Availability

Friday, Jan. 20 at 9:30 p.m. Redstone Cinema 8 Park City Waitlist Only

Saturday, Jan. 21 at 9 p.m. Broadway Centre Cinema 6 Salt Lake City Waitlist Only

Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 2:30 p.m. Prospector Square Theatre Park City Waitlist Only

Friday, Jan. 27 at 1 p.m. Holiday Village Cinema 4 Park City Waitlist Only

— David Burger

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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