Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession

Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession


Reviewed by: Darren Amner

The Z Channel was a ground-breaking cable-television station known for its devotion to the art of cinema. Pioneered by Jerry Harvey, its programming chief and obscure movie buff, the Z Channel went on to much acclaim and inspire such filmmakers as Quentin Tarantino and Robert Altman.

Harvey chose rare and important films, with the intention of appealing to the uncommon denominator. In an age where video cassettes and video stores didn’t exist the Z Channel gave its audience a wide scope of cinema. It showed Directors' cuts and film festival specials from specific directors and covered topics and subjects the world over.

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The Z Channel aimed to give life to movies and was an alternative to the studio-released movies and it took great risks with its choices. This documentary covers the Z Channel and its creative genius.

Jerry Harvey was a creature of habit, who had great taste in foreign and independent feature films by up-and-coming directors. He also developed relationships with the talent involved such as Michael Cimino - obtaining cuts and rights to movies that no other source could.

This is a documentary about one man’s passion – film. It’s very interesting but like most of the movies featured on the channel itself, it will appeal more to the cult movie fan – those in the know. Like its subject matter this film will mainly appeal to those who know about film.

There is no doubt this is an affectionate, touching piece, which has attracted high-profile contributors from ‘Hollywood’ almost like a who’s who. It may perhaps kick-start a new appreciation for great-cinema, a rarity in this day and age.

Cassavetes uses great film clips and interviews to celebrate the channels ‘glory days’, she even paints a non-demonised picture of Harvey, who in 1988 murdered his wife and then committed suicide. As the documentary winds down his friends find it hard to separate his accomplishments with Z and the way in which his life ended, when Harvey went a world went with him. Harvey had great knowledge, taste, show-man-ship and zest if you do too then the Z channel: An Obsession is the documentary for you.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2007
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Documentary about the ground-breaking TV channel.
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EIFF 2004

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