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La Posada in Winslow, AZ is a pilgrimage stop for me. Since we visited the NM state museum during Paso and I discovered the Harvey Hotels and their designer Mary Colter. She is the mind behind these destination hotels. She created these atmospheric hotels using local design elements and local artists and craftsmen. She also sourced all these light fixtures or had them made. Now these southwestern themes are in every Taco Bell but imagine a traveler from CT or IL getting off the train into this exotic world of curves and colors.- Maggie

Happy New Year! If you've been following us on social media, you know John & Maggie have been on a road trip to California. Here is our latest post from Maggie. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for photos and more! - JS Social Media Team

Two hawks on one branch to start us in another foggy morning.

Cows all along this trip starting in PA. Some snobs sneer at interstate travel but on this route we have seen many hawks and farms and trees and the land as it changes. Seeing wind farms and oil rigs, more cows, and finally feedlots which are not picturesque. Sing to Merle and Ray Charles “America”. More USA signs and fewer masks as we go. Just recommendations to wash your hands. Seat dancing to Steve Earle. A lot of country on JS Playlists. We finish listening to a wonderful Northern Irish actor read “say Nothing” a powerful book set in the “Troubles”. Also the second season of This Land, made by Cherokee journalist Rebecca Nagler. Highly recommend both seasons. It’s a long way across OK and then the TX panhandle. I’ll never feel the same about TX until human rights are returned to all its citizens. Here and above in the panhandle of OK is the site of the worst of the Dust Bowl, so we are talking about Tim Egan’s powerful book The Worst Hard Time. We switch to Spanish music and sing along to Ojos Verdes and Paloma Negra and dance to cumbia which is great driving music. 25mph winds from the south and building. It is a relief to be welcomed to New Mexico. I adore the Hotel Castañeda.

Feliz Año Nuevo - Maggie

It's John Sayles birthday! And we happen to have wonderful news to share on this special day. In October, Cinematheque Francaise in partnership with Festival International du Film Independant de Bordeaux will be holding a retrospective of John's work.

John and Maggie will be in attendance, both for Bordeaux and Paris, and would love to see as many friendly faces as possible.

Click the links below to find out more details about the exciting upcoming events including the full screening schedule for all John Sayles films being shown.

Below you can also find the English translation of the wonderful piece Murielle Joudet wrote on John's career, also featured in French on the Cinematheque website.

We hope to see you in France!


When it comes to integration, what's important if you want to get serious with all this American Dream bullshit, with this so-called democracy, is to include as many kinds of Americans as possible in the equation. " (John Sayles)

With a few details altered, the career of John Sayles could have resembled the exemplary arc of a commercial filmmaker: like Coppola and Scorsese, he cut his teeth with the King of the Bs Roger Corman, wrote a precursor to what would become ET The Extraterrestrial, and became a so-called script doctor sought after by the big Hollywood studios. But the stories that interest Sayles could only make him, definitively, a maverick (and very happy to be one): his eighteen feature films form a counter-history of America which could only flourish within a totally independent production system- a system he very often finances, Cassavetes-style, through his job as a shadow worker in mainstream cinema. Sayles's work, literary and cinematographic, covers many genres, as if each story had to find its own form (and American state): western (Texas), melodrama (Louisiana), sports film (Illinois) , science fiction (New York), teen movie (New Jersey), castaway survivors (Alaska), road movie (Mexican border), political fiction (Colorado), ensemble film (Florida) and labor history (West Virginia)… And at the same time, the filmmaker breaks free of genre to better explore the common thread of all his work: that at the level of a community, a city, a group of friends or even in a romantic relationship, American reality is structured by class relations (“the big American secret” as a journalist once said to him) cleverly concealed by the official story. Sayles-style cinema, the medium used as critique, places itself at the confluence of several disciplines: literature, ethnography, sociology, history and political science.


It was with $30,000 in his pocket that he made his first film, Return of the Secaucus 7, a portrait of a group of friends who meet for a weekend. The opportunity for a collective assessment, both intimate and political. Between amorous intrigues and disillusionment, this masterpiece of the "film of friends" (New Hampshire) asserts itself as a manifesto for the work to come: a way of organically mixing fiction and politics, as during a game of Charades where the women in the group also discuss the apalling inadequacies of American sex education.

Already his camera is not merely a mouthpiece for the director, but eagerly seeks to adopt all the points of view. Even inside a shot, it slips, gets distracted, tries to record everything, and with one obsession in mind: that each character has time to tell their story. This plan becomes a sanctuary, the temple of an obstinate but sometimes overwhelming attempt to listen; making a tour of the characters, of a place, of a city and, on the scale of the collected work here, of a continent. It is the principle that will guide all his films, and more particularly his choral works: Sunshine State, City of Hope, Silver City, so many cross-sectional portraits of a city and its inhabitants which recall the great people-films of Robert Altman and prefigure the sociological and Balzacian descriptions of showrunner David Simon (The Wire, Show Me a Hero).


A single story is not enough either to make fiction or to tell the whole truth- simple truth is a dead end. So the choral film becomes an aesthetic and political necessity to avoid falling into the fetish of a single point of view or story arc, a great unifying narrative sent from above that everyone is meant to adopt. And when there is only one hero, then he is an observer, alter ego of the filmmaker, immersed in life: in The Brother from Another Planet, which has become a cult film in the US, the viewer follows the trajectory of a mute black alien who lands in Harlem via Ellis Island. He walks, listens, watches, imitates and records like a child ethnographer. The arc of the movie resembles a fable about slavery and assimilation, and proves superbly that Sayles always manages to maintain this fragile balance between fictional liberty and didacticism.

On the map of American cinema, this filmmaker seeks to inhabit the territory in question, finding there a hard American reality that an excess of celebratory storytelling has managed to stifle. His films reiterate his vision of a people fundamentally divided into ethnic communities and pressure groups who regard each other like attack dogs- social classes with divergent interests, orphans from an illusory armistice. On several occasions, the films organize splendid face-to-face meetings between two characters from the same ethnic community but who do not belong to the same social class, and sometimes the reverse. Are they allies or enemies? Conflicts of loyalty, unresolved, rarely acknowleged in mainstream cinema.


This historical lucidity necessarily prevents the release of the blinding endorphins of the happy ending. The sports film is thus deprived of its triumphalist conclusion (Eight Men Out), the romance of the teen movie is doomed by the social divide (Baby, It's You), female emancipation is won at the cost of great sorrow (Lianna). The filmmaker never succumbs to the sirens of restorative fiction, and this lucidity mixed with pessimism will culminate in his masterpiece: Matewan, produced in the middle of the Reagan era, the true story of a community of miners who, in 1920, organized into a union to protest against dngerous conditions and pay cuts. A bloody and forgotten chapter of the American workers' struggles, in Matewan John Sayles travels in the wake of Howard Zinn, Marxist historian of the great American story told as an endless struggle fought with unequal arms, espousing the point of view of the rabbits rather than the hunters.

As long as there are still stories, his films seem to tell us, there will be no End to History. To survive, we must therefore, tirelessly, continue to tell: legends (Passion Fish), fantastic tales (The Secret of Roan Inish), or a past made up of very real struggles and oppressions spoken of only when the rulers are not listening. The motif is so omnipresent that it creates a secret solidarity between all the films, between the characters, between the living and the dead. To be faithful to the past is to make oneself the worthy avatar of an immemorial class struggle, to revive and embrace vital conflict, the one thing every American inherits.


This struggle often takes the form of an updated, Marxist western: real estate developers without faith or law, evicting the inhabitants of a neighborhood to develop luxury hotels, shopping malls and golf courses- the March of Progress in the minds of the victors (City of Hope). A galloping gentrification whose momentum is slowed by the exhumation of a Indian cemetery and a history older than the living or their ambitions, (Sunshine State). In Silver City, the rise of a corrupt politician is interrupted by the discovery of a corpse retrieved from a lake. With no recourse on dry land, Sayles appeals to the depths, to the fictions buried under water and the earth, in an almost mystical relationship to the elements.

In Limbo, a woman, her new companion and her daughter are stranded on a remote island in Alaska. The teenager has found, hidden in the corner of a makeshift shelter, the diary of an inhabitant of the island abandoned there. Each evening, a ritual takes place which helps the trio to survive: by the fireside, the man and the woman listen to the young girl read a few pages of this recovered story. One evening the mother opens the diary and realizes that it is mostly made up of blank pages- her daughter has made it all up. But that same evening, without saying anything, the mother again listens to her religiously. "Everybody is a politician" we hear in another film, and if all of Sayles' work features heroes aware of their place, their class and their struggle, there is always a moment, almost sacred, when we can - for a while - let our guard down. On an island, in a cemetery, near the sea or a fire where forgotten and magical and tiny and perhaps false stories hide, we can once again believe in everything we are told.

Murielle Joudet

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