“Understated” isn’t a word you’d ordinarily use to describe a Jerry Bruckheimer production, but that’s surprisingly what 12 Strong ends up being.
The following statement was written by Louis Black, co-founder of SXSW and an editor of the Austin Chrionicle.
“I think I’m still trying to do what I started out doing, which is to say, here’s all the stuff that I see in life that I don’t see on the big screen.” – John Sayles
John Sayles has long reigned as one of the most important, committed and visionary independent filmmakers. His standing in American film began almost a full decade before the premiere of "Sex, Lies and Videotape" (often credited with kicking off the modern independent film era at Sundance in 1989). Two generations later, Sayles is as determinedly independent as ever, while so many burning bright talents, dazzling on the festival circuit, quickly turned to big budget studio productions.
Consistently political and outspokenly humanist, Sayles' body of work stands alone in the breadth of its commitment to working-class and minority communities and the often ignored historical constructs that helped shape the present. Ultimately it is the films that give testimony: "Return of the Secaucus Seven," "Lianna," "Baby It's You," "The Brother From Another Planet," and "City of Hope"—which will be presented together for the first time at Cinefamily's upcoming retrospective, "A Weekend with John Sayles."
These pictures are unique cinematic reflections of a most realistic America; often harsh, always critical but also loving. Along the way, Sayles influenced a couple generations worth of filmmakers to find their own visions of what it means to make an independent film. Sayles is important and his work is important. He offers stories otherwise left untold, documents of the very development of the country, in its most specific struggles. Much appreciated but rarely celebrated, these works and his career seem to have drifted away, these outspoken groundbreaking grass-roots explorations of American life are still too unique. They are movies that should be regularly watched, but are sometimes not even included in the ongoing cultural discussion.
This series is an opportunity to celebrate a filmmaker, his films and an important kind of American vision. Too often Sayles is coyly dismissed for being too ideological; yet these stories still stir in an era when most films refuse to feign substantive political ideas at all. These skillfully crafted narratives are filled with beautifully realized characters. Few films today offer such a cogent adult American vision informed by compassion, history and an astute understanding of distinct regional cultures.
Thurs 2/18, 7:30pm: An Evening with John Sayles and "Return of the Seacaucus Seven"
Fri 2/19, 7:30pm: "The Brother From Another Planet" & "Piranha" Double Feature
Sat 2/20, 3pm: Master Class w/ John Sayles + "City of Hope"
Sat 2/20, 7:30pm: "Lianna" & "Baby It’s You" w/ John Sayles in person!
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