CCFF 2018: American Animals

Jared Abrahamson, Evan Peters, Blake Jenner and Barry Keoghan appear in American Animals by Bart Layton, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

American Animals takes an interesting approach to storytelling with a narrative/documentary hybrid in telling the absurd but true story of the Transylvania University library heist.

Flashback to the fall of 2003 when Spencer Reinhard (Barry Keoghan) is touring the Special Collections archive at the Transylvania University library.  Fascinated by the artwork of John James Audubon, Spencer starts to get these absurd idea to steal the rare collection.  He does so with the help of his friend, Warren Lipka (Evan Peters).  Realizing that the heist is going to need some extra hands, they bring in Eric Borsuk (Jared Abrahamson) and Chas Allen (Blake Jenner).

These four students thought they had the plan for the perfect heist but life had other plans for them.  All four would spend seven years in federal prison before starting over with their lives. Vanity Fair has an article featuring the untold story back in 2015.  There’s a moment in the film when Warren decides that he no longer wishes to play college soccer for the University of Kentucky and meets with an athletic director named Bill Welton.  One can only assume that the filmmakers didn’t have the permission to use UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart’s name nor could they find someone who looks like him.

Being from Kentucky, it’s crazy that I only heard about the story when it was announced to premiere at Sundance!

There aren’t many projects in which such a hybrid storytelling approach would work but with American Animals, it really does!

CAST:  Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner, Jared Abrahamson, Udo Kier, and Ann Dowd
FEATURING:  Spencer Reinhard, Warren Lipka, Eric Borsuk, Chas Allen

An official selection of the 2018 Chicago Critics Film Festival, American Animals premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Narrative Competition.  The Orchard and MoviePass Ventures will release on June 1, 2018.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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