There's been a lot of talk in film-critic circles lately about Andrew Bujalski ("Mutual Appreciation"), as if he was the only outstanding truly indie director working today without the backing of the theatrical marketplace. Let me submit another: indie auteur Jim McKay ("Girls Town," "Our Song"), the patron-saint filmmaker of Brooklyn, whose new movie "Angel Rodriguez" was made by HBO Films with the potential of a theatrical release, but instead has already gone straight-to-cable, with a DVD release scheduled for Nov. 28. That means no reviews, no critical debate, and virtually not a peep even from the folks at indieWIRE, Greencine, etc. who usually go out of their way to cover such films.
If you want to see Jim's latest on the silver screen, your only chance may be a special free Saturday showing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music this weekend. (On Monday and Tuesday, the venue will also show his earlier efforts "Everyday People" and "Our Song").
While I guess Jim can't complain that his movies are getting financed by a division of Time Warner (a luxury that Bujalski and many others do not have), he's also trapped in an environment that no longer embraces theatrical releases for the kind of subtle, humanist character-driven dramas that he makes. Not coincidentally, McKay is directing TV episodes of "Law Order: Criminal Intent" and "The Wire," which I think shows how difficult it us for a filmmaker like McKay to survive churning out films that one day were synonymous with independent film and are now considered "too small."
When I saw the film at Toronto 2005, I wrote in indieWIRE, "Jim McKay's latest humble HBO-produced portrait of confused youth, 'Angel' sensitively captures the life of a troubled inner-city teenager, reeling from the abuse and rejection of his unloving parents. Rachel Griffiths, sporting a believable American accent, plays a counselor trying to help the boy, but the movie belongs to newcomer Jonan Everett, the latest in a long line of McKay's finds."