John Sayles '72 and Maggie Renzi '73
2013 Bicentennial Medalists


It all started simply enough. Hey, you said to some friends, most of them from Williams, let’s get together and make a movie. But the result, Return of the Secaucus 7, not only earned preservation in the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress but also launched a joint career that has established you as the godfather and godmother of independent filmmaking. Your more than a dozen movies have relied on a thick sense of place and a nuanced understanding of America as a series of regional worlds, dense with particular histories, ways of living, and overlapping effects of empire. The films are populated with real humans, not stereotypes, who face complex personal and moral dilemmas, oftentimes unresolvable, as they construct their senses of identity, community, and purpose. The work has been honored not only for its artistry but also its meaning, including a Duke Lifetime Environmental Achievement in the Fine Arts Award, an NAACP Image Award for the sensitive portrayal of African American characters, and the Eugene V. Debs award for contributions to social justice. Together you have shown the rapidly growing number of independent filmmakers how to write, finance, produce, direct, edit, and distribute their work free from studio control and have exemplified for us all what it means to be true partners both in art and in life.

For a little more information on John Sayles, click here to see his classmate bio page.