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UCLA Film & Television Archive, the American Cinematheque, and the Hugh M. Hefner Classic American Film Program present

John Sayles: Independent

The Secret of Roan Inish
February 13, 2020 -
February 29, 2020
filmmaker John Sayles (2/13, 2/14, 2/15, 2/16, 2/17); actor Vincent Spano (2/15); assistant editor Plummy Tucker (2/22).

Within the pantheon of American independent filmmakers, there exists nothing more singular than the cinematic diversity, texture and brilliance of John Sayles. According to film historian Peter Biskind, Sayles’ first movie, Return of the Secaucus Seven (1979), sprang the American indie film movement into fervent action. To date, Sayles has maintained this cavalier spirit, finishing only one film, 1983’s Baby It’s You, under a studio contract; the vast bulk of his features have been produced by Sayles 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’ personal experience with physical labor, first-hand knowledge of unions, and exposure to the counter-cultural activism of the 1960s naturally flow into each of his works, branding him a “champion of the American working class” by the press for his blue-collar masterpieces 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 pop-infused teen love story Baby It’s You to his satirical Sunshine State, Sayles’ evocation of fully embodied characters should stand in diametric opposition to a filmmaking practice created from the margins of the industry. His process, in fact, is anything but removed or autonomous; 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 interrogations, nuanced character perspectives, and everyday human struggle, for a body of work more interested in the communal, and communities, than any living filmmaker. 

UCLA Film & Television Archive is honored to be the official home of John Sayles and Maggie Renzi’s Anarchists’ Convention Moving Image Archive. Along with the American Cinematheque, the Archive will proudly host the godfather of American independent cinema for five nights between February 13 and 17 at the Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum, the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, and the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. Sayles will be in attendance at every screening over this long weekend for conversations between films, as well as to sign copies of his new novel, Yellow Earth, which will be for sale in the lobbies of each respective venue. The Archive’s tribute to Sayles will continue through February, with four additional nights highlighting his works from the late ‘80s through the early 2000s. 

Special thanks to Maggie Renzi and Todd Wiener. 

Series notes composed by the Archive and the American Cinematheque.

Past Programs & Events

Title Date and Time Location
Eight Men Out

Eight Men Out

Saturday, February 29, 2020 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater
Passion Fish

Passion Fish

Friday, February 28, 2020 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater
The Secret of Roan Inish

The Secret of Roan Inish

Saturday, February 22, 2020 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater
Sunshine State

Sunshine State

Friday, February 21, 2020 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater
City of Hope

Off-site: Matewan  /  City of Hope

Monday, February 17, 2020 - 7:30 pm Aero Theatre
Lone Star

Off-site: Lone Star  /  Limbo

Sunday, February 16, 2020 - 4:00 pm Aero Theatre
Baby It's You

The Brother From Another Planet  /  Baby It's You

Saturday, February 15, 2020 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater
The Howling

Off-site: Piranha  /  The Howling

Friday, February 14, 2020 - 7:30 pm American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre

Return of the Secaucus Seven  /  Lianna

Thursday, February 13, 2020 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater