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Gus Van Sant 

Gus Van Sant is an American film director, screenwriter, painter, photographer, musician, and author. His early career was devoted to directing television commercials in the Pacific Northwest. In his films, he has dealt with themes concerning homosexuality and other marginalized subcultures.

Van Sant's first feature was "Mala Noche" (1986), a dreamy black-and-white rumination on the doomed relationship between a teen Mexican migrant worker and a liquor-store clerk. Made for about $25,000, the film won a Los Angeles Film Critics Award as the best independent/experimental film of 1987. "Drugstore Cowboy" (1989) chronicled the exploits of a rootless druggie (Matt Dillon) and his "crew" who survive by robbing West Coast pharmacies. Lyrically shot, and boasting superb performances from Dillon and co-star Kelly Lynch, the film marked Van Sant as a director of considerable promise.

His 1991 feature, "My Own Private Idaho", based on his first original screenplay, starred River Phoenix as a narcoleptic male prostitute whose search for home and family takes him from Portland, OR, to such disparate locales as Idaho and Italy. Keanu Reeves plays his well-heeled companion of the streets and son of the local mayor who, like Shakespeare's Prince Hal, goes slumming amongst the low-lifes before reclaiming his place in society. Unified by poetic visual imagery, the film combines a less than entirely successful contemporary retelling of the Bard's "Henry IV" with a harsh, unsentimental and nonjudgmental look at the lives of hustlers.

Sant's poetic yet clear-eyed excursions through America's seamy, skid row underbelly have yielded some of the more potent independent films of the late 1980s and early 90s. "I guess I'm interested in sociopathic people," he has stated, "in life and in my movies".

He is a two-time nominee of the Academy Award for Best Director—for Good Will Hunting (1997) and Milk (2008), both of which were also nominated for Best Picture—and won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival for his film Elephant (2003). He lives in Portland, Oregon.


Gus Van Sant has supported our initiative since 2010 and is an official friend of Side by Side.
This year we are pleased that he has been able to find time and join us at the festival with his colleagues Dustin Lance Black (screenwriter) and Bruce Cohen (producer) in Saint Petersburg and take part in a SPECIAL EVENING of cinema and discussion on 30 November, 2013.



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