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Series | MERRILY WE GO TO HELL, SUNSHINE STATE, SILVER CITY, THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET, BREAKING IN
Home / John Sayles: An American Cinematheque Tribute 2023
We are thrilled to welcome acclaimed filmmaker and novelist John Sayles back to the American Cinematheque to celebrate his new novel, the thrilling historical and cinematic epic, Jamie MacGillivray: The Renegade’s Journey. Sayles joins us for book signings as well as screenings of his celebrated films, including his fascinating ensemble dramas SUNSHINE STATE and SILVER CITY, his classic sci-fi film THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET, and his penned crime-comedy, Burt Reynolds-starring BREAKING IN.
Within the pantheon of American independent filmmaking, there exists nothing more singular than the cinematic diversity, texture and brilliance of John Sayles. According to film historian Peter Biskind, Sayles’s first movie, RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS SEVEN (1979), launched the American indie film movement into fervent action. To date, Sayles has maintained this trailblazing spirit, finishing only one film, 1983’s BABY IT’S YOU, under a studio contract; the bulk of his features have been produced by his and his partner Maggie Renzi’s own Anarchists’ Convention Films since his 1979 debut.
Born in a working-class neighborhood in Schenectady, New York, to parents who worked in education, Sayles’s first-hand experience with physical labor, unions and the counter-cultural activism of the 1960s naturally flow into each of his works, and he has championed the American working class in such his blue-collar masterpieces as MATEWAN (1987) and CITY OF HOPE (1991). A novelist by the time he was 22 and a screenwriter for Roger Corman’s New World Pictures before he turned 30, Sayles’ output has been vast, multilingual and consistent for over four decades.
From the intricately plotted murder mystery LONE STAR to his classic sports drama EIGHT MEN OUT, Sayles’ evocation of fully embodied characters seems incompatible with filmmaking done on the margins of the industry. But his process is anything but distanced; always independent, yet never unapproachable, Sayles is a filmmaker whose work gains strength from the collaborative nature of the medium. Less interested in constructing splashy political entertainment or casting “bankable” actors, Sayles steeps his stories in the realism of grassroots social interactions, nuanced perspectives and everyday human struggle – it’s a body of work more interested in the communal and communities than any living filmmaker.
Spanning 13 years, two continents, several wars, and many smoke-filled and bloody battlefields, John Sayles’s thrilling historical and cinematic epic invites comparison with Diana Gabaldon, George R. R. Martin, Phillippa Gregory, and Charles Dickens.
It begins in the highlands of Scotland in 1746, at the Battle of Culloden, the last desperate stand of the Stuart ‘pretender’ to the throne of the Three Kingdoms, Bonnie Prince Charlie, and his rabidly loyal supporters. Vanquished with his comrades by the forces of the Hanoverian (and Protestant) British crown, the novel’s eponymous hero, Jamie MacGillivray, narrowly escapes a roadside execution only to be recaptured by the victors and shipped to Marshalsea Prison (central to Charles Dickens’s Hard Times) where he cheats the hangman a second time before being sentenced to transportation and indentured servitude in colonial America “for the term of his natural life.” His travels are paralleled by those of Jenny Ferguson, a poor, village girl swept up on false charges by the English and also sent in chains to the New World.
The novel follows Jamie and Jenny through servitude, revolt, escape, and romantic entanglements — pawns in a deadly game. The two continue to cross paths with each other and with some of the leading figures of the era- the devious Lord Lovat, future novelist Henry Fielding, the artist William Hogarth, a young and ambitious George Washington, the doomed General James Wolfe, and the Lenape chief feared throughout the Ohio Valley as Shingas the Terrible.
Los Feliz 3 | Introduction by filmmaker John Sayles
‘John Sayles: An American Cinematheque Tribute’
$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)
Aero Theatre | Q&A with author and filmmaker John Sayles
Los Feliz 3 | Q&A with author and filmmaker John Sayles
Los Feliz 3 | Introduction by screenwriter John Sayles
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