Writer and director Jeff Feuerzeig (Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King) debuted his sophomore film at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, winning a Documentary Directing Award. The Devil and Daniel Johnston is an honest documentary of the life (and music) of the tormented genius Daniel Johnston. The film details Johnston's life beginning in his childhood through adulthood, and plays particular focus to his struggles with bi polar disorder, and how it has affected his not only his life and person, but also his career and relationships.
Feuerzeig goes back and forth using archived footage as well as fresh film of the singer/songwriter to bring to life the brilliance of Johnston's work, as well as the self inflicted damage his illness put upon his genius. Johnston began making music as early as the late 70's, and in the midst of his mental illnesses (having been diagnosed with both bi polar disorder and schizophrenia) continues to this day. In this candid documentary, viewers get a glimpse into the often times debilitating mental strife. At one point, his belief that the rock band Metallica was possessed by the devil kept him from signing a record deal with Elektra records.
Family and friends have contributed to the documentary as well, giving detailed accounts of Johnston's struggles throughout the years. His father, Bill Johnston, gives the pointed recollection from 1990 when Johnston had an episode on a two seater plane (that his father Bill was piloting) that almost cost both him and his father their lives. Johnston pulled the keys from the plane's ignition and tossed them out the window forcing Bill to crash land the plane.
Four years in the making, the documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston, brings a reality to the mental illness not only the suffering eyes of the afflicted, but also of those who love him.