Artist Projects

I Am Secretly An Important Man


Peter Sillen

I Am Secretly An Important Man is a feature length documentary portrait of Steven J. Bernstein (aka Jesse Bernstein), one of Seattle's most celebrated voices. His angry, surprisingly fresh, lyrical writings are about sensitive souls, drifters and drug addicts—people alienated by a society that refuses to understand them. He peeled back the ugliness and the darkness of life on the fringe to expose tender and not-so-tender human feeling. His unique rhythms, filled with humor and pain, were especially exciting when read in his own gravely voice. People packed into theaters, bars and cafes to hear him read and sing. Unfortunately, Jesse died by his own hand in 1991 and his work has not yet found much of the audience it deserves outside of the Northwest. This documentary is intended not just to eulogize but to invoke his vibrant spirit as it lives on in his work and in the memories of those he inspired, subtly questioning a society where so many people seem to fall through what little safety net exists.

Project Updates

  • 2010: I Am Secretly an Important Man premieres at IFC Center in New York

  • 2010: I Am Secretly an Important Man screens in Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival

  • 2010: I Am Secretly an Important Man has theatrical premiere at the Moore Theater in Seattle, WA

  • 2010: I Am Secretly an Important Man screens in Jesse Bernstein tribute at Bumbershoot in Seattle, WA

  • 2010: I Am Secretly an Important Man has New York premiere at Museum of Modern Art as part of Creative Capital film festival