© American Movie — Chris Smith/Sony Pictures Classics
1999, 107 minutes
For all those wondering where the true spirit of independent filmmaking has its source, don’t look any further. A true testament of artistic determination, American Movie follows Mark Borchardt, an unusual filmmaker from Milwaukee, part-delusional character part cinematic-hero, as he crafts his independent horror film ‘Coven’.
Many people could argue Mark is a loser, a man who has spent most of his teens and adult life making unreleased and in some cases unfinished films, who drinks more than he should and relies on the savings of his elderly uncle Bill to continuously finance his dubious projects. And yet, though Mark’s talent is debatable, his drive knows no limits, keeping him afloat even when his production is at the brink of collapse.
Using friends and family as cast and members of the production team (his mother is enlisted as his cinematographer!), he sets off on ‘Coven’, a movie that he hopes will help him finance the project of a lifetime, an epic entitled ‘Northwestern’ about his life. Some of the characters present in the film—Mike Schank, Uncle Bill—add a lot of rawness to the documentary, grounding the stage back to poverty, alcoholism and desperation, but proving once again that even so-called losers can dream.
Ultimately though, the film has a lot of humor and charm, with Chris Smith’s camera lingering just enough to reveal the sympathetic madness within these dreamers’ minds.