Some of you might remember that, going on two years ago, Kris and I were big champions of “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” a confidently disquieting, much-laurelled debut feature from Sean Durkin that also marked a significant step forward for BorderLine Films, the independent production company set up by Durkin with filmmaker pals Antonio Campos and Josh Mond.
With just a handful of acclaimed features and shorts to its name, BorderLine is a small outfit, but one that’s already built a strong brand in the independent sphere. That achievement is due to be recognized at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic this summer, where the New York-based company will be honored with the first-ever complete restrospective of its work — only eight years after it announced itself with Campos’s 2005 short “Buy It Now.”
“Martha Marcy May Marlene” wasn’t the company’s first feature: that distinction goes to Campos’s “Afterschool,” a formally risky, calculatedly claustrophobic study of high-school alienation that won considerable praise on the festival circuit and a home at IFC Films, but never came out from under the radar. Their next feature, Alistair Banks Griffin’s languid but affecting family drama “Two Gates of Sleep” kept, if anything, an even lower profile, trickling onto New York screens in 2011, a few months after the Fox Searchlight-distributed “Martha” gave BorderLine its first real arthouse success story in Sundance, where it won Best Director for Durkin.
Since then, we’ve had Campos’s controversial “Simon Killer,” an arrestingly stylish portrait of a sociopath that caused a stir at Sundance last year, and is finally making its way into theaters next month. (Its star, Brady Corbet, is something of a totem for BorderLine, having also starred in “Two Gates of Sleep” and “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” as well as a couple of their shorts.)
All these films, plus their remaining shorts (including Durkin’s striking “Martha” blueprint “Mary Last Seen”) will be featured in the Karlovy Vary tribute — titled, obviously enough, “BorderLine Films: The First Ten Years.” Furthermore, Durkin, Campos and Mond will each select and screen a favorite film (not one theirs, of course) from past editions of the fest, and will teach a master class accompanied by regular BorderLine actors and associates.
It’s a suitably hip choice of retrospective for the long-running, independent-spirited European festival, now in its 48th year and among the most prestigious of the smaller European fests. I attended last year and hope to revisit this summer. Campos, Durkin and Mond offer this statement in response:
“We are truly humbled by this honor. As a company, we have spent the past 10 years making films we believe in and working with the people we love. We never stop creating and moving forward, but we are excited to take this week in Karlovy Vary to look back on the work with many of our collaborators/ extended family and to share the films with a new audience.”