#97. American Movie (1999)
Directed by: Chris Smith
Written by: Chris Smith
Starring: Mark Borchardt, Mike Schank, Tom Schimmels
American Movie is the story of a movie lover (much like yours truly) trying to accomplish his dreams and get his vision onto the big screen. Chris Smith’s cult favorite documentary follows aspiring filmmaker Mark Borchardt as he struggles to find financing for his film Northwestern. Mark still lives with his parents, is deeply in debt, could be considered a functional alcoholic, and is at risk of losing custody of his three young children. American Movie follows Mark and his friends and family members as they come together in an effort to raise funding for Northwestern, as well as finish his previous short film Coven. It’s hilarious, tragic, and deeply moving on many levels. Mark Borchardt is one heck of an interesting figure – he’s not the most gifted individual in the world, but his passion is indescribable. Alongside Mark is his best friend Mike Schank, who may very well be one of the most unintentionally funny men alive today. The two men have a close friendship, and Mark trusts Mike with many responsibilities on the sets of his films. The Sundance-award winning documentary is elevated by down-to-earth direction by Chris Smith, who treats Mark and company as his equals, rather than choosing to look down on the quirky cast of characters. American Movie is a modern documentary masterpiece – even if it is a little silly at times.