Two strikingly ambitious films

Article: Two strikingly ambitious films


American indie movies specialize in character-driven intimacy. Most of the fiction films you see at the Sundance Film Festival in a given year, good or bad, are insular by design, focused on personal conflicts and private moods, sealed off from the outside world. It’s always a pleasant surprise then to encounter a dramatic movie here that grapples with larger historical forces, that blends the personal and the political. That’s precisely what THE IMPERIALISTS ARE STILL ALIVE! and NIGHT CATCHES US — two of this year’s most interesting dramatic-competition titles — set out to do. Neither is wholly successful — IMPERIALISTS indulges in a few too many art-film affectations; NIGHT is serious and somber, almost to a fault — but both are strikingly ambitious debuts (by women writer-directors, as it happens).