American Movie

Director: Chris Smith

Institute History


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 filmmaker.
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 filmmaking 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

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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