Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
November 22
November 5, 1999
American Cinema Shoots Itself

Several days after Halloween in 1999, sophisticated New York cineastes were treated to a real horror film, American Movie, a documentary about two would-be filmmakers stumbling after the American cinematic dream. Director Chris Smith had spend the last years following the progress of aspiring Milwaukee director Mark Borchardt and his best friend Mike Schank as they worked on a horror film, Coven. Though some accused Smith of treating the two men as figures of fun, American Movie captures their passion for film and depicts their sometimes inept low budget methods, offbeat views and mispronunciations (such as Coven, which Borchardt pronounces “coh-ven”) with genuine affection. The film catapulted Borchardt and Schank to unlikely star status as they traveled the world with the film giving highly entertaining Q&A sessions, appearing on talk shows and, in the case of Schank, even playing a version of himself in a movie (Todd Solondz’s Storytelling.) American Movie was a cult hit for Smith and his producing partner Sarah Price, and the pair followed it up by co-directing another humorous doc The Yes Men (2004), about two political pranksters.


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Mark Ruffalo November 22, 1967
Mark Ruffalo born

If every generation gets the leading man it deserves, then we should be grateful that Mark Ruffalo’s star is on the rise.

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November 22, 2002
Far From Heaven opens

When Far from Heaven opened in 2002, audiences could believe they had traveled back nearly 50 years to 1957, when the film is set.

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November 22, 1963
The Film Seen Round the World

On November 22, 1963, an accidental filmmaker made what became the most obsessed over film of the twentieth century. Standing on a concrete overpass in Dallas, women’s clothing manufacturer Abraham Zapruder raised his Bell and Howell 8mm camera and tracked the motorcade that carried president John F. Kennedy through Dealy Plaza. Zapruder’s 27 seconds of footage shot from a clear, elevated vantage point are the only complete recording of Kennedy’s assassination and a focal point for government investigators and conspiracy theorists alike. The film also became the object of one of the stranger ownership tussles in modern cinema. Zapruder gave copies of his film to the Secret Service and, three days after the shooting, sold the negative and all rights to Life Magazine. Zapruder’s heirs later disputed the sale, and the film was eventually returned to them by Life owner Time Inc. for $1 dollar. In 1992, however, the U.S. declared the film an “assassination record” and the property of the government. A lengthy dispute ensued over the amount Zapruder’s heirs should be paid. The government proposed paying the family $3 to $5 million; the Zapruders argued that the film should be valued similarly to recent sales of a Van Gogh painting and an Andy Warhol silk screen of Marilyn Monroe. Finally, arbitrators worked out a value of $16 million. Shortly thereafter, Zapruder’s heirs donated one of the original copies of the film and its copyright to the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, which now oversees all rights requests.

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