WE ARE ONE: A GLOBAL FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW! Josh Swade’s entertaining and wistful documentary Ricky Powell: The Individualist follows the fascinating journey of its titular “downtown photographer extraordinaire,” one of the quintessential “New Yawk” artists of the 1980s and 1990s, also known as the Rickster. Buoyed by the palpable mutual respect between filmmaker and subject, this study of Powell’s life manages the feat of being as candid as Powell’s photography of gritty city streets and major pop culture icons like the Beastie Boys.
“I’m really just a regular Joe jerk-off in the neighborhood,” Powell states early on in the film. Taking deep drags from his weed pipe in-between telling anecdotes (he’s been smoking skunk “before anyone knew what skunk was”), the Rickster instantly commands attention with his presence. Vivacious, regretful, disheveled (although he may argue the latter), he wears shirts that literally pop at the seams and lives in a ramshackle apartment, deep in his own world. “He’s crazy as f**k, but he’s a genius,” DMC says.
“one of the quintessentially ‘New Yawk’ artists of the 1980s and 1990s…”
Ricky grew up quick, “playing catch with junkies and pimps” in the downtown NYC streets, surrounded by stray dogs, whom his club-hopping mother Ruth admits to loving more than her own son. He doesn’t have any recollection of his father, nor does he have any idea whether the man’s alive or dead. “I could’ve easily been aborted, I believe,” Ricky says casually. This shadow of parental neglect hangs heavily over an otherwise high-spirited story.
“I was kinda black, the way I walked, talked,” Ricky recollects. “I had blackness in my game on the court.” Ricky came into the scene at a crucial time in the mid-1980s when black culture was finally having a moment: graffiti was becoming art, hip-hop culture was emerging – and Rick “always knew what was going on.” Although he had “no artistic ambitions,” Ricky’s girlfriend Amie Hertzig introduced him to photography and, well, “everything just f***ing clicked.”
"…a crowd-pleaser in the truest sense of the word..."