BEST FILM (1999)
Far and away the richest local film released in the last 12 months, director Rolf Belgum's dark horse rock-doc got a jump on a subgenre that's fast becoming de rigueur: the portrait of the artist as loser or vice versa. This real-life Spi¨nal Tap brilliantly leaves it to the viewer to decide whether the wildly driven courier and metal-band headbanger Dan Cleveland deserves success--or whether, being so passionate about his craft, the dude might have already made it. A natural-born performer in any case, Cleveland is a full-time one-man band: Designing an elaborate (and ineffective) rope-and-pulley system to lug his gear out of the cramped basement where he rehearses, medicating himself with a specially calibrated mix of Zoloft and Prozac, shrieking into the mic like a man possessed, and determining to record his debut album by any means necessary, the longhaired frontman philosophizes his career every backward step of the way. "It's kinda weird to quote Scripture," he says at one point, before likening his iron will to that of the prophet Ezekiel. Speaking of creative fortitude, we're reminded that our choice for last year's Best Film--Terri Myers's Not a Nickel's Worth of Doubt--was also a documentary portrait of Twin Cities artmaking, which places Cleveland within a well-established local tradition. And as the similarly dedicated Belgum shot his labor of love on Hi-8 video for a grand total of $700, Driver 23 is what a KQ92 DJ might call a double shot of classic Minnesota rawk.