Director: J. Max Burnett
Screenwriters: J. Max Burnett

Institute History

  • 1999 Sundance Film Festival


There is a genre (at least it feels like there should be) of independent films that attempt to portray rural, small-town life, but they rarely capture any of its essential insularity. What makes Possums such a compelling and
entertaining exception to the normally hackneyed depictions is the manner in which a slightly absurd narrative premise is so believably realized. A number of the usual characters and settings are present, ranging from whittling old-timers and an obnoxious mayor to the diner, hardware store, and football field. But first-time writer/director J. Max Burnett has taken a tired format and developed a whimsical sports fantasy that is fresh, charming, and ultimately very poignant.
Mac Davis heads a splendid cast as Will Clark, the radio announcer for the hapless high school football team, the Nowata Possums. When the development-minded mayor pulls the plug on the team (a pseudo-Wal-Mart needs the stadium site), Clark, who owns the town hardware store and is the Possums’ most passionate booster, decides to broadcast an imaginary season. Assisted by Jake, a young, part-time employee, his efforts begin inconspicuously but gradually evolve into a Cinderella trek to the state finals that captures the imagination of the town and the attention of the state’s media. But reality rears its ugly head, and a climactic confrontation threatens the town’s dreams.
A playful air permeates this work, and its old-fashioned resonance makes it an effective fable and proof why the small town has an everlasting place in American dreams.

J. Max Burnett, Director
J. Max Burnett has his roots and childhood in Oklahoma. His background was exclusively in theatre until, just three years ago, he moved to LA and switched his focus to film. Since then, he has worked on numerous feature films, from Dante’s Peak to Paul Schrader’s Touch. He has also written a couple of screenplays on assignment, as well as several of his own. Possums is his first feature-length film.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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