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By Louise Kim

Published Feb 21, 2020 8:00 AM


The UCLA Film & Television Archive celebrates John Sayles and Maggie Renzi, who together paved the way for independent films.


Lone Star, one of John Sayles and Maggie Renzi's many critically acclaimed films, was screened Feb. 16 at the Aero Theatre. Photograph courtesy of UCLA Film & Television Archive.

The UCLA Film & Television Archive has a long-standing reputation for film preservation. And it has boosted that by hosting a screening series of John Sayles and Maggie Renzi’s work, known as the Anarchists’ Convention.

Sayles, an independent film director, and his long-term producing and creative partner Renzi have built up an influential body of work over the past four decades.

To help fund their low-budget films — such as 1992’s Passion Fish, starring Mary McDonnell as an injured soap opera star and Alfre Woodard as her aide — they would script doctor more mainstream Hollywood movies.

Sayles and Renzi have been credited with kickstarting the indie movie boom in 1979 with the self-financed Return of the Secaucus Seven, a drama that was shot in one house with many of Sayles’ friends cast as actors to save money.

John Sayles: Independent, which concludes on Feb. 29, will screen several films from UCLA’s Anarchists’ Convention Moving Image Archive.

The director has introduced some of the movies, shown at the Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum at UCLA, the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica and the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.

“For the nights that Sayles will not be present, I wanted to offer a broad range of his lesser-screened works through the 1980s and into the 2000s, including the Archive’s brand-new digital restoration of The Secret of Roan Inish, [which is] the rare folklore [feature] among his filmography,” says K.J. Relth, film programmer at the Archive.

The Archive’s relationship with the Anarchists’ Convention goes back to 2001. The two groups collaborated on the formal photochemical preservation and restoration of Sayles’ movies, including Return of the Secaucus Seven, Lianna, The Brother From Another Planet and Matewan.

Renzi played an active role in ensuring the preservation of these films. “From those fruitful preservation partnerships, Maggie Renzi and John Sayles decided to deposit their moving image archive with us,” says Todd Wiener, motion picture archivist at the Archive.

“Sayles’ legacy is already singular: His output is vast and consistent, and — save for one film, Baby It’s You — produced and executed entirely outside of the major studio system,” Relth says. “This distinction is rare, even for an American filmmaker who came up in the wake of New Hollywood, and it’s a mode that’s inspired at least three generations of independents, both nationally and abroad.”

The Archive continuously works to preserve and celebrate important moving image media. For instance, it recently screened the new 2K restoration of Susan Sontag’s debut film, Duet for Cannibals. To coincide with the restoration, the Archive and UCLA Library Special Collections presented the Susan Sontag Papers, a collection of professional and personal correspondence, before the screening.

To purchase tickets for the John Sayles: Independent screenings, visit cinema.ucla.edu

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