Top 40% of all time (see others with this rank)

Festival Year

2000 (click here to see all competition films from this year)


Dramatic Competition


Janet McTeer, Aidan Quinn, Pat Carroll, Jane Adams, Gregory Cook, Iris Dement

Non-Cast Credits

Maggie Greenwald, Ellen Rigas Venetis, Richard Miller, Enrique Chediak, Keith Reamer, David Mansfield


Maggie Greenwald (The Kill Off) returns to Sundance with a film about a woman whose drive to pursue the things she believes in leads her on an unexpected path to self-discovery. It is 19_7, and musicologist Doctor Lily Penleric (Janet McTeer) has just been denied a promotion in the male-dominated world of university. Frustrated and determined to get academic recognition, she heads to Appalachia with a recording device and written materials. There she joins her sister, Elna, who runs a struggling rural school.

Lily then makes a startling discovery that could change her academic career. The folk songs of Scotland and Ireland have been preserved and passed down through generation s of these secluded people. She sets out to record them, but her task is not an easy one. The people are wary of her, fiercely insular and protective of their mountain ways. Arriving at a volatile time when the coal companies are vying for land and swallowing up whole communities, Lily cannot help but become involved in the struggles of these people while falling in love with Tom (Aidan Quinn), a rough local musician.

Songcatcher's two most striking assets are the haunting music and the stellar performance of Janet McTeer. Greenwald guides the focus of McTeer's earthy, unstoppable drive toward self-realization. The simple songs stand on their own, raw and moving, complementing the glorious landscape. Songcatcher is a powerful portrait of the age-old struggle between preservation and progress, set in the visceral world of unsung mountain people.


John Cooper (see other films reviewed by the same reviewer)

Film Takes Pace.