Film on the Fringe: 10 Intriguing Outsider Art Documentaries

Jon Foy’s fascinating and unexpectedly personal documentary Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles hits DVD today. The film explores the strange urban mystery surrounding hundreds of tiles adorned with cryptic, metaphysical messages found across the U.S. and South America, which have perplexed people since the 1980s.

Other films have examined the unexpected and unrecognized genius, strange pathology, and obsessively creative works of outsider artists in similarly intriguing ways. Many of the documentaries themselves have taken a low-fi approach to their portrayal, creating a similar mood to the works being investigated. Others come from a straight documentary angle, but all are compelling portraits. Head past the break to check out other outsider documentaries that introduce some of art and music’s most expressive creatives on the fringe.


Possum Trot: The Life and Work of Calvin Black, 1903-1972

Folk artist and ventriloquist Calvin Black created a makeshift tourist attraction in California’s Mojave Desert in 1954 known as Possum Trot. Black created more than 80 life-size female dolls, which he used to perform with during shows set inside his Bird Cage Theater ¬— each one with their own personality and voice. You can see the strangely grotesque figures in action in Possum Trot: The Life and Work of Calvin Black, 1903-1972. Their odd, misshapen forms combined with Black’s quavering impersonation and the desert landscape is a truly surreal experience.