Directed by Chris Smith
Running time: 107 min
One of the best documentaries of the 90s, American Movie is Chris Smith's insightful, funny and moving film about Wisconsin-based independent director Mark Borchardt. Smith originally met Borchardt, an unforgettable and garrulous character who, like Smith himself, was born and raised in the Midwest, at the University of Wisonsin-Milwaukee in the late 90s, where they were both studying film. Borchardt, a horror enthusiast who grew up on such classics as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Night of the Living Dead, is set on making the ultimate horror film, a low budget, semi-autobiographical black and white movie called Northwestern, which he has been planning for most of his adult life. American Movie follows the making of Northwestern for a year and half, during which, fuelled by determination and passion, its director takes on odd jobs and makes huge personal sacrifices to realise his cinematic dream. After fending off creditors and avoiding child support payments in order to be able to finish his direct-to-video movie, Borchardt realises that his project is unrealisable and decides, instead, to complete one of his previously abandoned short films called Coven in order to drum up some cash. Surprisingly, amid the director's increasing alcoholism, gambling debts and the film's inept production team, Coven eventually gets completed and premieres at a local theatre in 1997. Shot over two years, American Movie reveals its subject slowly, affectingly building a portrait of this 'no bullshit' guy, his family and friends and the ambition and dream that he is doggedly pursuing. Produced by Sarah Price, it enjoyed critical success at the time of its release and won the Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival.
Reservation is not necessary, but places are limited. Please arrive early to avoid disappointment.