Last week’s release of Matewan, a moving ensemble drama that tells the true story of a 1920 coal miners’ strike turned deadly, heralds the entrance into the collection of one of American cinema’s most fiercely independent voices. The Oscar-nominated writer-director (The Brother from Another Planet, Eight Men Out, Lone Star) has been widely celebrated for the political engagement of his storytelling, his extraordinary ensemble casts, and the local texture of his settings—to name just a few of the qualities that distinguish his eclectic body of work. So we were naturally thrilled that, on a visit to our offices while work on Matewan was underway, he dipped inside our film closet. Once in there, as the video above attests, he went right for a film he fell in love with as a boy in Schenectady, New York: Federico Fellini’s traveling-circus tale La strada, which spurred the young Sayles to seek out many other Italian films, including Mario Monicelli’s own union drama The Organizer—he plucked our edition of that one off the shelves too. Keep watching to see Sayles’s tribute to the political cinema of Costa-Gavras, and to learn which Hollywood comedy of the forties has his favorite fast-talking dialogue.
Leslie Harris’s Closet Picks
With her groundbreaking debut film, Just Another Girl on the I.R.T., now on the Criterion Channel, the director stopped by to talk about the movies that loom large in her personal canon.