Before the ubiquity of reality TV, Chris Smith and Sarah Price set the standard for tragicomic portraits of quixotic dreamers with American Movie, their 1999 documentary about would-be horror auteur and fellow Wisconsinite Mark Borchardt.
The film's cult status launched Borchardt's acting career. But even after winning a 2007 Sundance Special Jury Prize, Smith struggled to find distribution for The Pool, his wry and touching fiction debut about a poor Indian teen who takes a pool cleaning job to spy on the rich girl he pines for, and maintains a veneer of optimism for his younger friend despite their abject circumstances.
The Pool screens Tuesday 11/3 in the Midwest Independent FIlm Festival.
In hindsight The Pool compares favorably to Slumdog Millionaire, with which it shares some key elements, in its unblinking and unmelodramatic look at social inequality. Here it's perseverance, ingenuity and sacrifice, not miraculous luck, that can change fate.
Smith also codirected the first Yes Men film with Price, and his next project, Collapse, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival this year, is a monologue by Michael Ruppert, the former LA cop who predicted the economic meltdown in his blog From the Wilderness.
The Pool screens Tuesday 11/3 at 7:30 PM at Landmark's Century Centre, 2828 N. Clark. $10. Doors at 6 PM. Producers panel at 6:30 PM with Paul Froehle, Simeon Peebler and Laurie Scheer of Flashpoint Academy. Post-screening discussion with The Pool editor Barry Poltermann and composers Didier Leplae and Joe Wong.