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Bach Movies



American Movie








Film: January 1999 (USA, Sundance Film Festival); Nov 2000 (USA)
DVD: May 2000
VHS: Jan 2001


Chris Smith



Mark Borchardt (Filmmaker); Tom Schimmels (Actor in 'Coven'); Monica Borchardt (Mark's Mom); Alex Borchardt (Mark's Brother); Chris Borchardt (Mark's Brother); Ken Keen (Friend / Associate Producer); Mike Schank (Friend / Musician); Matt Weisman (Casting director); Bill Borchardt (Mark's Uncle / Executive Producer - as Uncle Bill); Cliff Borchardt (Mark's Dad); Tom Beach (Production manager); Joan Petrie (Mark's Girlfriend / Associate Producer); Robert Richard Jorge (Actor); Dean Allen (Props / Special effects)


On the northwest side of Milwaukee, Mark Borchardt dreams the American dream: for him, it's making movies. Using relatives, local theater talent, slacker friends, his Mastercard, and $3,000 from his Uncle Bill, Mark strives over three years to finish "Covan," a short horror film. His own personal demons (alcohol, gambling, a dysfunctional family) plague him, but he desperately wants to overcome self-doubt and avoid failure. In moments of reflection, Mark sees his story as quintessentially American, and its the nature and nuance of his dream that this film explores. (J. Hailey)

Struggling filmmaker Mark Borchardt is the subject of American Movie, and he may also be the most determined man you'll ever meet. The straggly haired, fast-talking, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, native lists his greatest influences as Dawn of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. He began making horror movies as a gangly adolescent, and is now set on finishing Coven (which he pronounces like "woven"), the "35-minute direct market thriller" he has worked on for two years. In the process, he steadfastly battles immense debt, the threat of losing his kids, and birds chirping gleefully through scenes set in the dead of winter. His mother would rather do her shopping than be an extra, his brother contends he's best suited for factory work, and his father just wants him to "watch the language."
Standing by him through it all is Mark's childhood buddy, Mike Schank, who is the strongest weapon against drug use a task force could ever hope for, and Uncle Bill, begrudging financier of Coven, who appears to be wasting away before our very eyes. In less perceptive hands these two could easily become caricatures--the burnt-out stoner and the crotchety old coot--but through director Chris Smith's lens we see why Mark loves them, why they love Mark, and why each of these stories is uniquely compelling.
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, the film has been compared to Spinal Tap and Waiting for Guffman--two unquestionably hilarious mock-documentaries--and, indeed, American Movie has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. But in the spoofs, we feel encouraged to point and giggle at the poor slobs trying to get a piece of the action. Smith, however, offers us a funny and overwhelmingly affectionate portrait; you may sit down expecting to laugh at Mark's pie-in-the-sky hopes, but you soon find yourself bursting with admiration. "The American dream stays with me each and every day," Mark says, and by the end, we want nothing more than for it to come true. (The DVD version includes the complete short film "Coven.") (Brangien Davis,

Chris Smith's documentary about a young Wisconsin man (Mark Borchardt) and his drug-addled best friend (Mike Schank) in a three-year struggle to make a cheap horror movie is a fascinating, disturbing character study. Borchardt is resourceful, if a little unhinged, and his fast-talking enthusiasm sweeps many of his friends and family up in pursuit of his dream. There are a lot of funny, sometimes uncomfortable glimpses of Borchardt's filmmaking (at one point, he pounds a friend's head, take after take, into a kitchen cabinet until the cabinet breaks), but the documentary also deals with Borchardt's poor, uneducated background, the collection agencies after him, and the trouble he has supporting his three kids. Smith sometimes ridicules his subject, but mostly he presents the story in a refreshingly heartfelt way. It is Borchardt's dream that keeps those around him alive and relatively sane. (Bruce Diones, Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker)




107 min (Film) / 104 min (DVD, VHS)

J.S. Bach's Music:

Bach Fugue
Mike Schank
used by permission of 33rd St. Music


Film: Color, Stereo
DVD: (Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC, Region 1)
VHS: (Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC)


Film: Bluemark Productions; C-Hundred Film Corporation; Civilian Pictures
DVD: Sony Pictures
VHS: Sony Pictures


Watch selections:

Buy movie at:


Source/Links: IMDB
Contributor: Aryeh Oron (November 2007)

Bach Movies: Bach's Life & Documentaries: Index by Title | Index by Year
Filmed Performances: Index by Work | Index by Main Performer
Bach's Music in Soundtracks: Index by Title | Index by Year
General: Index by Number | Discussions of Movies on Bach


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