Documentary filmmaker Chris Smith follows up his 1996 Sundance Film “American Job” with another mid-western story, this time entitled “American Movie”, and the results are one of the most engaging documentaries to come out of Sundance in years.
The subject of this “behind-the scenes” documentary is full time paperboy and part time filmmaker Mark Borchardt, a charismatic white-trash twenty-something horror movie fan who is hell-bent on making his first horror feature entitled “Northwestern”. The documentary follows two years in Mark’s life as he raises funds from his father and trailer park uncle. Faced with absolutely no money and lots of drive, Mark is a one-man show. He’s a writer-producer-director-actor-editor-cinematographer and just about everything else. His friends are (all drug addicts, alcoholics, and ex-cons) are his crew, but they mostly just flake on Mark in his time of need.
Chris Smith is excellent at always getting his camera in the right place at the right time. He captures Mark’s hopes and realities so perfectly that you can’t help but fall in love with this train wreck in the making. Mark’s ex-wife is threatening to take away his three kids. Credit card companies and the IRS are knocking on his door for money, and yet Mark is so focused on making any film that when he can’t afford to finish “Northwestern”, he decides to finish one of his many abandon short films entitled “Coven”.
The documentary is never condescending to Mark and his friends, and Mark’s passion and motor mouth can persuade anyone to do anything. Through all of Mark’s inexperience, (including one scene where he jams an actor’s head through a cabinet door before checking to see if it’s breakaway wood), you feel Marks’ love of movies and desire to complete his opus. Mark truly is an independent filmmaker, and he’s also the one person in this dead-end town that has a goal and a dream to express himself in a way out side of a Coors Light. If you like movies, you must see “American Movie.”