A recent interview with veteran indie film director John Sayles prompted us to take a closer look at his fascinating career. The interview, by the way, is about his forthcoming film Amigo, about the little known Philippine-American war.
His film debut was Return of the Secaucus Seven (1979), about a group of friends reminiscing about getting arrest at a 1960s protest years ago. This film was a precursor to The Big Chill and a few other movies about characters who might be labeled yuppies waxing nostalgic about their fading youth. While this description may sound uncharitable, it’s actually a quite compelling film. It’s a good example of a character/dialogue driven story done on a low budget.
Sayles has directed a total of 16 films -Amigo will be #17, and we won’t describe each one. However, one of his quirkier ones (for a director who specializes in a type of quirkiness) is Brother From Another Planet (1984). Joe Morton plays the “Brother,” a black man from another planet who wanders around the earth, unable to communicate verbally with people, but still able to interact meaningfully with those whose paths he crosses.
In The Secret of Roan Innish (1994), Sayles explores the rich world of Celtic mythology. The setting is the seaside Irish county of Donegal and the film explores the legend of the Selkie -a creature who is half human and half seal. This theme, incidentally, was explored more recently in a lesser known film called Ondine (2009), although in this case it’s not clear until the end whether the woman who’s suspected of being a selkie really is one, or if she’s a human with another type of secret.
These are just a few highlights in the career of esteemed indie film director John Sayles.