John Sayles - Press Release

March 31, 2012

Tim Lucas, 919-613-8084,

DURHAM, N.C. – One of America’s most respected independent filmmakers and storytellers, John Sayles, will be the 2012 recipient of The Duke LEAF Award for Lifetime Environmental Achievement in the Fine Arts. Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment will present the award to Sayles on April 21 on Duke’s campus.

An original “do-it-yourselfer,” Sayles figured prominently in the launching of the new independent film movement in the 1970s, writing and directing the critically acclaimed Return of the Secaucus Seven (1979) on a shoestring budget of $40,000. He followed with 16 other films he wrote and mostly edited including Matewan (1987), and the Oscar nominated Passion Fish (1992) and Lone Star (1996). His latest work is Amigo (2010).

The Duke LEAF has been given annually since 2009 to an artist whose work has lifted the human spirit by conveying our profound spiritual and material connection to the Earth, thereby inspiring others to help forge a more sustainable future for all. Previous recipients are Robert Redford, Jackson Browne and Barbara Kingsolver.

The ceremony, beginning at 2 p.m., will be held in the Bryan Center’s Reynolds Theater on the Duke campus. The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required and will be distributed through the Duke Box Office. There are charges associated with online ticket reservations and will call.

The selection committee for the LEAF was impressed and moved by the manner in which Sayles, as a filmmaker and writer, uses a sense of place and the land as the context for the human dramas that unfold in his narratives.

“John Sayles’ work subtly, but compellingly -- and at times with humor -- interweaves environmental themes and conflicts with themes of human conflict and struggle,” says Nicholas School Dean William L. Chameides. “Ultimately, Sayles makes us aware on a visceral as well as intellectual level of our strong material and spiritual connection to the natural world and, in the process inspires people to value and steward our environment.”

Adhering to a strong ethic, Sayles has a reputation for refusing to abandon his values to become a studio filmmaker. He has always made his living and partly financed his own productions by working as a screenwriter for hire on commercial projects, many un-credited. He also writes fiction and has published several novels and collections of short stories.

He lives with his producing partner of many years, Maggie Renzi, in upstate New York.