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Sundance 2016: "Richard Linklater: Dream is Destiny"

That Richard Linklater is a beloved director by the film community may be an understatement. Three documentaries in the last three years have been made about the filmmaker, of various levels of expressiveness and depth. 2014’s "21 Years: Richard Linklater" captured him as a type of all-star director, with various talking heads sharing their admiration for his projects, cutting no more than press release deep. 2013’s Gabe Klinger doc "Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater" took a different approach, pairing Linklater opposite experimental filmmaker Benning, tapping into the similar ways the two directors see the world. The latest doc about the Austin director is "Richard Linklater: Dream is Destiny," which provides the fullest, deepest picture yet of the ethereal filmmaking talent. 

Co-directors Karen Bernstein & Louis Black paint a picture of Linklater that sometimes repeats from those previous, including Kevin Smith re-sharing how he was inspired to make movies after seeing "Slacker." But the key to this documentary is access to personal archives, from rare footage of Linklater on set to journals from Linklater's earlier days. When Black and Linklater go through the meticulous records Linklater kept of money he spent and movies he saw, this documentary feels like it comes from the perspective of an old friend. When Black and Linklater talk openly about their background in Austin's film community, as forced as it might be for the cameras, it has an exclusive comfort. "Richard Linklater: Dream is Destiny" is both able to elevate the director, but not before tethering him to the idea of being an Austin-based guy who just wanted to make his own movies. 

Of course, Black has been in Linklater's life since before "Slacker," having a cameo as an angry guy reading the newspaper. For reasons other than that, "Slacker" serves as this documentary's thesis statement—it was an original, instinctive piece of a director who would become the zeitgeist himself, by simply making the films he wanted. "Dream is Destiny" shows the type of sensation that the movie caused, even snagging an interview with former Orion head Michael Barker, who explains why they picked up the non-commercial “Slacker" during the height of Generation X filmmaking. 

"Dream is Destiny" explores Linklater’s career movie-by-movie, with a home base context that he’s always an Austin outsider bounding in and out of Hollywood endeavors, following his own interests. With the doc's aforementioned old-friend tone, Linklater candidly shares his disappointment in Universal’s handling of “Dazed and Confused,” or the way in which “The Newton Boys” didn’t connect with audiences. A great highlight includes Linklater talking about “School of Rock,” one of his less assuming projects. (An impression by Jack Black of “School of Rock” producer Scott Rudin is also a high point.) There’s also some artistic inspiration to be mined in how Linklater made a movie like “Waking Life” as a type of creative jolt after “The Newton Boys,” with Black & Berstein showing footage of Linklater following around actors with just a DV camera in his hand. “Dream is Destiny” is not just excited about what films he made, but the vitamins behind them.

Intellectual if unabashed (the latter during its cringing segment mourning Linklater’s Oscar-loss for “Boyhood,”) “Dream is Destiny” is a crisp overview of a special talent, and the diverse filmography that can be connected through a specific authorship. At its end it boasts more of its access, that of behind-the-scenes footage for his next project, the “Dazed & Confused” sequel “Everybody Wants Some.” Through the doc’s journey, even this non-film footage can be seen in an exciting light, its admiration for Linklater’s process and philosophy proving contagious.

Nick Allen

Nick Allen is the former Senior Editor at and a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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