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Last night, HBO premiered Remembering the Artist: Robert De Niro, Sr., a 45-minute documentary about the father of Robert De Niro. De Niro, Sr., was an abstract impressionist painter who struggled with his lack of recognition for most of his career. He was also gay. De Niro, Jr., appeared throughout the documentary, discussed his parents' split and his dad's sexuality candidly, albeit tersely.
Perri Peltz and Geeta Grandbhir's doc also featured excerpts from De Niro, Sr.'s journals, and this one linking his hopelessness as an artist and as a gay man in pre-Stonewall society was particularly poignant:
Being a painter is an affection like being a homosexual. One had to have the strength to continue working without the thought of recognition even before or after death, just as one had to have the strength to accept life alone without the thought of a romantic attachment.
In another, he wrote, "Will I be recognized in my lifetime?" His son sought to make that happen—the goal of this doc stated in its first moments is to give De Niro, Sr., his due. He died of prostate cancer in 1993 at the age of 71.
I felt I had to. I felt obligated. It was my responsibility to make a documentary about him. I was always planning on doing it, but never did. Then Jane Rosenthal, my partner at Tribeca [Enterprises], said, "We should start doing that now." It was not intended to be on HBO. It was just something I wanted to do.