Slippery Slopes

Sundance Takes a Tumble

While American Movie was the only documentary with obvious theatrical potential, Rory Kennedy's American Hollowand Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgan's On the Ropes had the political insight sorely lacking in the fiction features. Erroll Morris's Mr. Deathscreened as a work in progress, but looks very promising.

Still, the only work at the 1999 Sundance that might make history is not a film, but a 10-part television series airing on PBS next fall. Jennifer Fox's American Love Storyis a '90s version of the groundbreaking '70s series American Family. The subject is the Wilson-Sims family: African American dad Bill Wilson; white mom Karen Sims; and their two daughters, 20-year-old Cicily and 12-year-old Chaney. Because the no-frills cinematography and leisurely paced editing are specific to series TV, the piece played badly projected in four-hour blocks on the big screen. Still, it was clear that there's never been a more intimate study of the everyday significance of race and racism in American life.

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