Born in Louisville, Kentucky and educated at the Rhode Island School of Design, Gus Van Sant emerged from the nether-world of producing commercials to become one of the most exciting new directors working in independent film today. Graced with a style that could best be described as lyrically eccentric, Van Sant's early films have probed that other America; the one lying underneath the perfect country depicted in advertisements and commercials. His landscapes are those of the underbelly of society; the skid rows populated by drifters, drug addicts, and the otherwise dispossessed. While it's true this territory has been explored previously by other filmmakers, Van Sant's perspective of these seamy underworlds is refreshing in its wit and starkly comic honesty.
From Mala Noche, his inner city tale of a doomed relationship between a Mexican migrant worker and a liquor store clerk, to Drugstore Cowboy, Van Sant's characters say and do the unexpected; unlike those of many Hollywood movies, they are anything but predictable. For example, Bob (in Drugstore Cowboy), addicted to chemical substances, freely admits what so many of us refuse to acknowledge; we sometimes engage in dangerous behavior simply because it's fun and we like it. And in his latest work, To Die For, Van Sant zeroes in on America's compulsive obsession with celebrity fame and fortune; another overworked theme into which he breathes new and, not incidentally, hilarious life. He uses black humor like a painter uses primary colors to bring his creations to life. Lesser known, yet no less significant are Van Sant's shorter autobiographical films of which he has made one each year since 1984 and into which he plans to assemble a cinematic diary.
A true visionary maverick, Gus Van Sant embodies those characteristics which Cinequest celebrates and most admires. --P.D. Crane.
Filmography: 1985-Mala Noche; 1987-Five Ways to Kill Yourself (short); Ken Death Gets Out Of Jail (short); My New Friends (short); Junior (short); 1989-Drugstore Cowboy; 1991-My Own Private Idaho; 1994-Even Cowgirls Get The Blues; 1995-To Die For.