Kevin Smith — director of “Clerks,” “Chasing Amy,” and “Dogma”–caused a stir last night at Sundance with his new “Red State.”
Smith–always looking to mix it up–had announced that he’d sell the movie in a public auction at the Eccles Theater right after the only screening. Of course, the place was packed with potential bidders. In the end, Smith bought the film himself, for $20 and announced that he’d release it on his own. The first show is March 5th at Radio City, followed by a limited tour to famous theaters in hospitable cities.
The tour makes a stop in Kansas, home of crazy right wing “reverend” Fred Phelps, upon whom Smith’s main character–a crazy right wing evangelist played beautifully by legendary actor Michael Parks–is based. Last night, Phelps sent protesters to picket the movie. So Smith had his own counterprotesters, who carried their pown provocative signs. Nothing like getting a little publicity. “Maybe we’ll protest at his house,” Smith joked.
“Red State” is partly about Reverend Cooper, who kidnaps homosexuals and kills them viciously in his remote family compound. It’s also about how the ATF and FBI handle domestic terrorism. Neither group will be happy with Smith, who manages to depict the inadequacies of both sides. We did learn that bible study sometimes includes being handy with an AK47.
On other hand, “Red State”–made quickly this past fall–may be Smith’s best work. It looks terrific, has a talented cast including Melissa Leo and John Goodman, and moves very efficiently It’s violent, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. It is surely an indictment of the “red states”–although the red is also about blood. This is a horror film, after all, albeit one with a definite goal and point of view.
PS In his long remarks after the film, Smith praised his “rabbi,” Harvey Weinstein for teaching him everything about the film business. We’ll have a video later this morning of the whole shebang.