Bayou Maharajah: The Tragic Genius of James Booker

Director Lily Keber
United States / 98 min. / 2013 / English

Dr. John calls him "the best black, queer, one-eyed junky that ever came out of New Orleans". An intoxicating vision of the eccentric and tragic genius of R&B piano, with astonishing images and great praise by Allen Toussaint, Harry Connick Jr and Irma Thomas, among others. 


He called himself "the black Liberace", but Dr. John –who's a joker–, described him as "the best black, queer, one-eyed junky that ever came out of New Orleans". Don't be fooled: there was admiration in his words. There was nobody like James Booker, versatile prince of R&B piano in New Orleans, Bayou Maharajah, occasional transvestite (and one also partial to dressing up as a policeman), super-eccentric, and limited edition oddball of the Creole scene. Stroll through the delights of this moving take on his life, brimming with conviction, with hilarious fables (there are a hundred different versions of how he lost his eye: it was the Mafia, the CIA, some dealer from Harlem, or best of all, Ringo Starr nabbed it!) and with natural talent. But this is also a tale of incurable pain, jail, addiction and death in mysterious circumstances. And it's told through magnificent images, galloping songs ("Gonzo", about heroine, and his hit "Junco Partner") and praise spread thick by peers and admirers: Allen Toussaint, Hugh Laurie, the producer Joe Boyd, Charles Neville, Harry Connick Jr, Irma Thomas and others. A true tragic genius.


Lily Keber co-directed Hutto: America's Family Prison in 2007. A year later, she co-founded the female collective: New Orleans Video Voices. This is her first solo feature- film. She lives and works in New Orleans. 

Entradas BCN


Premiere type
European Premiere

Showing format

Oxford American's Best Southern Film

in festivals
SXSW OutFest Film Society at Lincoln Center Barbican Centre

Harry Connick Jr., Hugh Laurie, Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Charles Neville, Douglas Brinkley

Aimée Toledano, Tim Watson

David S. White

Sound designer
Eric Laws

Lily Keber, Nate Kohn

Film company
Mairzy Doats Productions

Film distributor

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