American Movie


Top 20% of all time (see others with this rank)

Festival Year

1999 (click here to see all competition films from this year)


Documentary Competition

Non-Cast Credits

Chris Smith, Sarah Price, Jim McKay, Jun Diaz, Barry Poltermann, Chris Smith, Mike Schank


It takes a village to make a movie, but when that village is Menominee Falls, Wisconsin, and not Hollywood, California, the results are comical, humbling, and sometimes hazardous. Director Chris Smith returns to Sundance (American Job, 1995) with an in-depth, honest examination of the archetypical low-budget flimmak er. Spanning more than two years, American Movie is a story of ambition, obsession, and one man's quest for the American dream.

Inspired by such films as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Night of the Living Dead, Mark Borchardt has been making movies since he was a teenager. He has all the passion and drive it takes; unfortunately, what he sorely lacks is money. In a questionable business move, he decides to finish and peddle his short film, Coven, in order to finance his dream picture, Northwestern.

Smith does an extraordinary job of penetrating Mark's world with extreme care so he doesn't interfere with Mark's slipshod film-making techniques. Smith lets Mark's abrasive (and often hilarious) nature shine through as Mark coerces his busy mom into being an extra when no one else shows up, drives his well-to- do elderly uncle to the bank to become "executive producer" of Coven, and takes a fund-raising trip to the Toronto International Film Festival on the day when everyone else is going home.

It is a long shot that Mark will ever have the success he desires, but with the help of his local film community (aka his friends and family), he truly epitomizes the heart in American independent filmmaking.


Mary Kerr (see other films reviewed by the same reviewer)

Film Takes Pace.