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The New American Realism

ReelPolitik By Anthony Kaufman | ReelPolitik February 12, 2008 at 7:06AM

The New American Realism
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Recently, The New York Times' Manohla Dargis wrote about the "emergence of a new American realism" at the Sundance Film Festival, "united by stylistic commonalities, a feel for the still moment - and, importantly, for beauty - a grounded sense of place..." I share Dargis' feelings. So for this Village Voice article, coincidentally titled The New American Realism, I made an effort to describe this like-minded group of filmmakers who share a humanist vision for indie cinema, all seemingly revolving around producer Paul Mezey.

For the article, I talked to Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Jim McKay, Joshua Marston, Chris Smith and "Momma's Man" director Azazel Jacobs (and, of course, that noble enabler Mezey), and while the directors certainly have different sensibilities and visions, themes and milieus, there is a common committment to making films that don't conform to the commercial mold. If anyone out there criticizes Fleck and Boden's "Sugar" for a) not adhering to a more predictably fulfilling third act and b) wanting to make art over millions, then they don't understand what cinema is all about.

Because Mezey didn't have anything to do with Lance Hammer's "Ballast" (which was Sundance's other revelation, made in this vein), it didn't make sense to include it. But in a forthcoming indieWIRE article, I'll examine "Ballast," and how, like many of Mezey films, it could very well encounter a chilly reception in the marketplace. But as Mezey told me, filmmakers have to "exist outside of the reality" of the Indiewood machine. "And you can pull power away from the studios. If you keep making these films and they're getting the ink on the editorial and review pages, it's going to draw attention." And hopefully, a shift in the habits of moviegoers and distributors.

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