This project gallery represents the work of our network of creative activists including media produced by Creative Activist Program members, fiscal sponsees, and Creative Visions Productions. 

SAMO Reborn: The Al Diaz Story

Rosso Films International

Best friends Jean-Michel Basquiat and Albert Diaz dominated the New York City graffiti scene from 1979-1980, secretly creating one of the most iconic graffiti tags of all time: SAMO.

It was a religion, a myth; a bold commentary on capitalism and social inequality. Both kids had zero money in their pockets, but together, they were armed with an imagination to rule the world. One evening, while being interviewed on live public access television, Basquiat proudly declared himself as SAMO. The one. The only. Before the program ended, Basquiat proceeded to drop one final sentence on an awe-struck crowd: "SAMO is Dead."

While this bold declaration fortified the path towards fame and glory for Basquiat, his partner-in-crime was left in the dust; the forgotten half of an artistic legacy.

Until now. Al Diaz's story begins in his Brooklyn studio - a refuge that spans forty incredible years of art, human trauma, and survival. Through interviews, rare archive footage, and other primary sources, we are taken through a roadmap of an artist whose dignity is embodied by the life he has lived and the art he continues to make.

This documentary showcases four essential chapters in Al's life: his pre-teen origins in graffiti art under his mentor - the legendary Flint Gennari; his turbulent friendship with a pre-fame Basquiat; Al's struggles with heroin addiction and homelessness on the streets of San Francisco after Basquiat's untimely death in 1988; and finally, the reemergence of a man who was given a second chance.

With deep precision, Al Diaz unravels the socio-political aspects of SAMO's new awakening in modern times. He candidly describes the mistakes our society has not yet learned from the 1980s. How art is a necessity for the unrepresented. The abuse of women. The lack of respect for transgender artists.

The fact that we have not "moved beyond" our traditional homes for "viewing art." The subway, Al says while completing an installation, represents "the underground that society does not want to address." We end the documentary on the same note we began: art. SAMO is not only reborn on the streets of the Bowery to Tribeca. It is reborn as an embodiment of Al Diaz's second act in life. A documentary for those who dare.

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