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maryann johanson | watching movies at home

Film School (review)

Remember when “reality TV” used to be called “documentaries”? The Independent Film Channel does, and it brought us a compelling example of the documentary series with this 2004 insider look at one semester at New York University’s famous — and challenging — graduate film program. Oscar-nominated documentarian Nanette Burstein follows three students with diverse backgrounds and wildly different aspirations for themselves and their art as they race to meet the deadline for NYU’s prestigious First Run Festival with their made-under-the-gun films. Writing the scripts, casting the roles, and the actual shooting are nothing compared to the drama of raising production budgets — tens of thousands of bucks above and beyond the tens of thousands of bucks in tuition — and coming to grip with how one’s own expectations can’t always measure up to reality. Tensions and emotions run high, but this ain’t no “reality” game show: these are talented, ambitious people whose only opponents are themselves. Here is the entire series — all 10 episodes, sans extras — and it’s a gripping and enlightening exploration of artists and their sometimes fractious compulsion to make art. [buy at Amazon]

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MPAA: not rated

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