Writer/director/producer David Gordon Green arguably qualifies as the most individualistic American filmmaking voice to emerge during the early 21st century. In his early work, Green demonstrated an instinctual feel for Southern Americana, landscapes, and populace, and laudably broke away from traditional narrative structures and character development to such a degree that his first three features (uniformly rooted in the said onscreen elements) are instantly identifiable as his own. A native of Little Rock, AR, Green grew up as the son of a medical school dean father and a Lamaze instructor mother. As a young man, he religiously watched films, yet (unsurprisingly, given the iconoclastic approach to the medium that he ultimately embraced) gravitated far more to nontraditional narratives, such as Walkabout, Killer of Sheep, and the features of Terrence Malick (Days of Heaven) than he did to buttered popcorn Hollywood fare.
As time rolled on, Green began to envision a lifelong career for himself as a filmmaker, and took some of his first formal steps in that direction by enrolling in the film production program at the North Carolina School for the Arts after high school. A student consistently at the top of his class, he turned out a number of acclaimed and breathtakingly original shorts, one of which, Pleasant Grove (1996), evolved into Green's independently financed first feature, George Washington (2000). Scripted by Green and shot during the summer of 1999, George Washington loosely interweaves events from the lives of several African-American children coming of age in rural, impoverished North Carolina over the course of one long, mythical summer. The lead character (who dreams openly of being elected President of the United States, hence the film's title) suffers from an unusual cranial disability that plays into his successful act of heroism -- a courageous attempt to save another little boy from death -- while another tragic incident involving a fatal accident manifests itself in the community. As would become his trademarks, Green cast a plethora of nonprofessional actors, employed heavy improvisation, and resisted any attempts at conventional storytelling. A shattering debut to end all, George Washington took the press by storm when it bowed in 2000, and made Green's name a household word in the independent filmmaking community. Among other accomplishments, it won four distinguished honors (including Best Picture) at the 2000 Independent Spirit Awards, netted the Discovery Award at the 2000 Toronto Film Festival, and won Best First Film for Green at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards. In terms of critical raves, its admirers included A.O. Scott of the New York Times, who called it "a dream of a movie" and compared it to William Faulkner, not exactly small praise for a tyro director on his first time out.