This unique and bizarre cult hit must be credited in part with the current documentary boom sweeping Hollywood.
It follows an amateur filmmaker from Wisconsisn named Mark Borchadt. Borchadt's dream is to make a serious drama film called Northwestern, but to make that film, he believes he must first finish a terrible-looking horror film called Coven, which he thinks will provide him with the financial success to mount Northwestern.
Assisting Mark in his efforts is his acid casualty best-friend Mike Schank, who provides many of the film's funniest moments.
American Movie is very kitchen sink and can be very depressing at times, but Borchadt's spirit is indomitable and his story is ultimately very inspirational. His dogged (albeit slow moving) determination in the face of increasingly odds speaks directly to aspiring filmmakers everywhere. And it's really funny too.
When American Movie was released in 1999, many critics and filmgoers didn't believe it was a documentary. Mark's filmmaking skills appeared so lacking, and he seemed so endearingly un-self aware that they believed it was all actors taking the piss. But no. There were also some people who believed the filmmakers were making fun of Mark, exploiting him, but they've always maintained they were celebrating him as an embodiment of the American dreamer. There's a thesis in there somewhere.
Since the film, Borchadt has become a minor celebrity - he has appeared on numerous talk shows, and had cameos in several mainstream movies. He's even made a new movie (which he also stars in) called Scare Me (about an alcoholic writer making a horror film to get out of debt when evil forces intervene- hmmm), check out that film's official site here.
American Movie is a must-see for anyone who's ever dared to dream. Make sure you set your video.