Artists of the Year

Craig Zobel

By Jim Brunzell III

Craig Zobel's Great World of Sound premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2007 and emerged as one of the best films of the year, establishing Zobel as a filmmaker to keep a close eye on.

Zobel's debut feature follows two naive "talent scouts" who are working for a small, independent music label. They travel state to state in search of determined and eager (but mostly talentless) musicians, and ask them to make a down payment for a recording session and their chance at fame. With the promise of turning singles into gold records, passive Martin (Pat Healy) and boisterous Clarence (Kene Holliday) become unintentional swindlers for the Great World of Sound music label.

Zobel's film doesn't have any marquee names, gaudy special effects, or explosive action sequences, but it has an ingredient that's missing more than ever in most current American (independent or Hollywood) films: the elegant art of storytelling. Zobel and co-writer George Smith deftly weave together an admirable story about hardworking salesmen attempting to decipher the two-headed definition of success and the universal malaise of desperation. Great World of Sound also garners some huge laughs from scenes of American Idol-like tryouts in seedy motel rooms as each performer tries to achieve his 15 minutes of fame.

Zobel's own moment of fame could last a while longer: He recently won the Breakthrough Director Award at the Gotham Awards in New York, and GWOS has been nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards, including Best First Feature and Best Supporting Actor (Holliday).

Jim Brunzell III is with Minnesota Film Arts.

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