From the moment I saw Ramin Bahrani's Man Push Cart at Sundance a couple years ago, I knew I'd found a filmmaker I was going to like. In Man Push Cart, Bahrani took a figure most folks who live in or visit New York City take for granted -- the guys who operate the shiny metal pushcarts you see dotting every other street corner, pimping doughnuts and coffee to busy Manhattanites -- and explored the fictional existence of pushcart man Ahmad (Ahmad Razvi), a former Pakistani pop star turned average deeply depressed guy trying to survive in the wake of his wife's death. Man Push Cart impressed me because of both the depth with which Bahrani explored his character and the gritty realism with which the film plopped the viewer into Ahmad's dismal, but not hopeless, existence.
Bahrani scored well with Man Push Cart -- the film premiered at Venice before going on to play a slew of fests, including Sundance, before getting a limited theatrical release and a DVD release the UK and Spain (soon to come in the US, according to Bahrani's official website). But in spite of being called " ... among the most striking American independent movies of the last year" (along with In Between Days and Cavite) by Dennis Lim, writing for the New York Times, Man Push Cart was rather overlooked by a lot of critics at Sundance and didn't find huge theatrical success. Roger Ebert liked the film enough to slot it in his Overlooked Film Festival the same year, but the film's total box office is just over $55,000, according to Box Office Mojo. I was disappointed it didn't do better off the fest circuit; it was one of the best independent films I saw that year, and I eagerly waited to see what Bahrani was going to do which his next film, and I'm pleased to be able to say that with Chop Shop, Bahrani has a solid follow-up.