As it usually happens in bankrupt cultures, those who deserve the most acclaim and recognition often dwell their entire lives in poverty and obscurity. The history of neglected artists who only posthumously received their due is long. Van Gogh is perhaps one of the best known examples, but there are many others. And in most cases the relative obscurity assigned to the artist is directly proportional to his or her willingness and talent to rock the boat of conventionality, or expose the status quo’s most egregious crimes. From that perspective, being genuinely gifted and not being a “household” name in America is almost a badge of distinction.
Few multidisciplinary artists have escaped this enforced “submerged notoriety” better than John Sayles, without a doubt one of the towering pioneers of independent American cinema, a director of tremendous originality and power, and a master novelist of stature in his own right. For here is a man who has literally fought the system to something of a standoff, insisted on his own terms, and while pointing his lens and pen to those who make the wounds, has clawed his way to a measure of grudging recognition. In the process he has accumulated a resume that most audiovisual artists would envy.
Beating the odds
Invariably perceptive and unapologetically political, Sayles is the man behind classics such as MATEWAN, a must-see film with a backdrop in early labor struggles; BABY IT’S YOU, a quirky, insightful “sociological” look at the exotic realm of the American high-school and the dreams and realities of class and youth intermingled; and of course his first film, Return of the Secaucus 7, the movie that put him on the map (made with a ridiculously small budget, $30,000, a sum that in today’s bloated Hollywood would be regarded as cigarette money). Sayles is also the man who way ahead of mainstream Hollywood delivered a now unjustly forgotten gem, LIANNA, a sympathetic story in which a woman becomes discontented with her marriage and falls in love with another woman. In February 2010, Sayles began shooting his 17th feature film, the historical war drama AMIGO, in the Philippines. The film is a fictional account of events during the Philippine–American War, with a cast that includes Joel Torre, Chris Cooper, and Garret Dillahunt. His novel A Moment in the Sun, set during the same period as Amigo, in the Philippines, Cuba, and the US, was released in 2011 by McSweeney’s. —Patrice Greanville
[Thanks to WIKIPEDIA for invaluable information.] WATCH VIDEO BELOW
nyc-arts profile: john sayles
Legendary filmmaker John Sayles has directed 17 films over the past three decades including “Return of the Secaucus Seven,” “Matewan,” “Eight Men Out,” “Passion Fish” and “Lone Star.” But before he was a filmmaker, Sayles was an award-winning fiction writer, having already published two novels and a collection of short stories before turning 30. Rafael Pi Roman joins the director-novelist at his Hoboken office to talk about his most recent film, his latest novel and his unique career.
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