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New Louisville exhibit marries the myth of Hunter S. Thompson with the man

A graphic image shows a horse wearing a garland of roses and sunglasses stands mouth open in front of Churchill Downs. He has a cigarette in his mouth and the Twin Spires are distorted behind him.
Jacob Mulliken
"Doomed: Hunter S. Thompson's American Dream"
"Doomed: Hunter S. Thompson's American Dream," tells the story of the man behind gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson.

Louisville-born Hunter S. Thompson is known for his political coverage and for creating gonzo journalism, which puts the reporter at the center of the story. A new documentary attempts to view Thompson apart from the larger-than-life figure he became.

“Doomed: Hunter S. Thompson’s American Dream” views Thompson in a more literary light. It examines his work more than his personality, at least the one the public cultivated around him.

“A lot of people just view Hunter as kind of a drug- and booze-addled guy out on the fringe, breaking all the rules, having a good time,” said the film’s director Jacob Mulliken. “That's not inaccurate. He was partly, but he was also a guy that was out covering presidential campaigns.”

His documentary aspires to be a more complete view of Thompson’s work and life, including everyday life.

Mulliken said he was lucky some of the writer’s closest friends and family participated in the film.

“You really got into how, morally, he was, what his political views were, the writing process for him – a real intimate look at who he is,” said Mulliken.

Mulliken also created animations to fill in the visual gaps that interviews couldn’t.

The opening sequence of the film is a collage-style timeline going through some of Thompson’s most famous works. But Mulliken skipped past the things that are easily searchable.

“People have Google. They can look up that kind of stuff. I wanted to do it where it just launches more into him,” Mulliken said.

“Doomed: Hunter S. Thompson’s American Dream” is a project Mulliken has been working on for more than 10 years.

“Being able to be back in Kentucky, and show it there, which was in my wildest dreams, I didn't think I'd be here to do it. It's really exciting,” Mulliken said.

Against the Grain Brewery is hosting a release party and art exhibit.

“The film really personifies Hunter S. Thompson in a way that is so often overlooked, and we are excited to be a part of this opportunity to get to know him better,” said Against the Grain co-founder Sam Cruz in a news release about the event.

Against the Grain also released a beer called Doomed for the occasion.

Work by Mulliken and other artists focused on Thompson’s work will be displayed and on sale at the brewery while clips from the documentary play.

Mulliken hopes that guests will be reintroduced to the man behind the sensational tales.

“That's actually been one of the coolest things is buddies of mine that are big Hunter fans, when they come back after seeing it and go ‘Oh, I had no idea about like 75% of the stuff these people talk about,’” said Mulliken.

The gallery event is at Against the Grain’s Bardstown Road location Saturday from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m.

“Doomed: Hunter S. Thompson’s American Dream” is available now to stream for free on Tubi.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.