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Mumblecore’s Cousin = the “Gordon Green Gang”

Mumblecore's Cousin = the "Gordon Green Gang"

This weekend, I was talking to someone about Craig Zobel’s SXSW/Sundance feature Great World of Sound, when I realized that a couple of the actors in the film also appear in Zack Godshall’s Sundance feature Low and Behold. But, besides that, both films follow a very similar formula: a disenchanted young man moves to a new town and finds a job that has him in over his head. All the while, this new job includes an unlikely and unpredictable partner, who joins this disenchanted young man on daily interviews with ordinary people. In the case of Great World of Sound (pictured here), the duo are record producers scouting new talent and scheduling auditions. In Low and Behold, the work is insurance claims in post-Katrina New Orleans, featuring interviews with hurricane victims.
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In both films, the directors set up real-life interviews with real people, to create an interesting doc/narrative hybrid format. The two films feature performances by Robert Longstreet (who rocks in both) and Barlow Jacobs. Low and Behold producer Sarah Hendler was the production coordinator on Great World of Sound. And, as I’ve mentioned, both films premiered at Sundance this year in the Spectrum section.

So, what is the uniting factor? In simple terms, it’s director David Gordon Green. Much of the crew from both films got their start working on various Green productions, with several folks (especially Zobel) coming out of the North Carolina film scene. But, okay… there’s more. These films are obivously part of a very vital and impressive new movement that is coming from this closeknit community of filmmakers and collaborators. And, yes, it all has ties to the so-called “mumblecore” scene developing on the festival circuit this Spring. I don’t have a fancy chart like Aaron Hillis, but I’m gonna try and basically draw some connections and bear with me as it may get confusing.

Okay, ready? So, Great World of Sound and Low and Behold are not really mumblecore at all. First of all, they have a real storyline and plot. Unlike most mumblecore films, stuff actually happens. Joining them is another film from the same David Gordon Green community, a film that premiered at Berlin this year from director Jeff Nichols, called Shotgun Stories (where not a lot happens but there is some life-and-death). So, while these films are coming from a very real and essential community, they are not “traditional mumblecore”… but are related. There are similar nuances and styles that bridge these three films with the mumblecore movement. And, quite directly, there are three filmmakers in the mumblecore movement connected to the North Carolina film community. They are: Nate Meyer (Pretty in the Face), Michael Tully (Cocaine Angel), and Aaron Katz (Quiety City).
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So, this is where mumblecore makes its connection to Zobel/Nichols/Godshall, or for the sake of coining another meaningless term, the “Gordon Green Gang.” What about David Gordon Green himself? I would go toe-to-toe with anyone to proclaim that his first two films, George Washington and All the Real Girls (pictured here), are the first major mumblecore films of the last 10 years. That was where the verite styles of Maysles and Malick, became married with the personal approach of Cassavetes and Rohmer. Since these two films, Green has started experimenting with more traditional narrative structures, but his influence is certainly felt on many of the so-called “mumblecore” features.

The whole point of this post is to say that there is a very real and very good movement of new independent filmmaking happening just on the sidelines of this whole “mumblecore” madness. And, yes, you will only be able to see these films at festivals for the next few months (though, Great World announced a distribution deal with Magnolia during SXSW). In fact, get ready as next week begins the baffling circuit of Sarasota-Atlanta-Nashville-Boston festivals. And many of these films will be found at one or all of the aforementioned fests.

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