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Review: American Movie (1999)

American Movie (1999) 

Directed by: Chris Smith

Premise: A documentary about a struggling independent filmmaker (Mark Borchardt) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin attempting to create a short horror film called Coven.

What Works: The documentary follows the project from the beginnings of its script to the final product. It is also a character study of Borchhardt and his family. American Movie finds a balance between the two tracks of its storyline and ties them together to create a stronger narrative. For all his faults, Borchardt understands how to make his project and the film takes us through his filmmaking process, including getting funding, the difficulties of shooting, and finding ways of distributing the final product.

What Doesn’t: The film is very funny but we are always laughing at Borchhardt and his friends, not with them. At times, the film feels like it is exploiting the people involved, although the ending does a lot to correct this.

DVD extras: Commentary tracks with the director and the cast, the short film Coven, and deleted scenes.

Bottom Line: American Movie will be well received by those with an interest in making their own films or those who enjoy documentaries by Errol Morris. The film is a slice of the lives of those involved and makes for a interesting story.

Episode: #61 (July 24, 2005)