Director: Michael Di Jiacomo
Screenwriters: Michael Di Jiacomo

Institute History

  • 1998 Sundance Film Festival


Michael DiJiacomo has created a unique melange of imagery, character, and fable in this imaginative saga of a man seeking his place in the world. Animals is part reality, part mythic invention as it spins out a narrative which begins with a wonderful prologue depicting a team of French ethnographers who are filming a true eccentric, a tuba-playing toll keeper in the Utah desert. But the focus of the story is a disillusioned and world-weary New York cabbie, Henry Berst (Tim Roth), who, after being robbed, picks up an out-of-town fare and hits the road. It happens that the fare is the three members of the film crew from the prologue, now fifty years later, who want to go to Maryland and meet their long-lost friend Hervé.

Thus begins a bizarre journey. When Henry parts their company and falls in love with Fatima Chue, a mysterious southern woman who lives on a pig farm with her brother and mother, his real quest begins. It gets even more intricate, but you get the idea; this is not your run-of-the-mill melodrama. What is really impossible to describe is the incredible imagery, atmosphere, and universe that Animals portrays. This is one of the most visually stunning independent films I have ever seen. DiJiacomo understands the power of cinema not just to relate stories but to transport you into ethereal and poetic worlds. With John
Turturro, Mickey Rooney, and a distinctive performance by Roth, Animals is the kind of dadaist storytelling that represents what independence is all about.

Michael DiJiacomo, Director
Michael DiJiacomo attended New York University’s Graduate School of Filmmaking, where his short film Heaven won the W.T.C. Johnson Fellowship. His short film The Lost Treasure . . . won several awards, including the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Student Oscar. He was a directing fellow at the Sundance Filmmakers Lab and has written several screenplays, including Prince Jack, with Spike Lee producing and John Turturro directing, and The Man Who Stole the Mona Lisa for Phoenix Pictures.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]