John Sayles is considered an elder statesman of the indie film industry, but the 53-year-old writer-director has no trouble keeping up with the younger generation. His 17th feature, Casa de Los Babys, hits DVD next week, just as he's putting the finishing touches on his next movie,

Silver City (due out this fall). Set in a small South American town, Babys revolves around six American women — each of whom are anxiously waiting to adopt a child from the local orphanage. Here, Sayles tells TV Guide Online about wrangling his big casts, making movies in Mexico and the current state of indie film.

TV Guide Online: Like most of your films, Casa de Los Babys features a large ensemble cast. What draws you to this kind of storytelling?
John Sayles:
Sometimes, it's the only way to examine a complex situation. In Casa, there's the personal situation that each of these mothers is in and then there's the larger social situation that they really can't think about. So, very often, an ensemble gives you a chance to explore these different areas. Also, I was thinking about how many movies there are about groups of men. Very few are about groups of women and the differences in the dynamics between a group of men and a group of women.

TVGO: Community is an important theme in the film as well.
Sayles:
Yes. These women are in a country where they don't speak the language, and so they wind up becoming this kind of expatriate community, despite their differences. They spend a lot more time together there than they ever would back home. I think one of the interesting things in Casa is that you also dip into several subcommunities of the country they're in. And that was always the plan. I was interested in that Upstairs, Downstairs approach. When you're isolated from a culture in a foreign place, there's this mystery. I wanted the audience to actually have this luxury of seeing both sides of the mystery without erasing the line for the characters.

TVGO: Even though adoption is an emotional issue, Babys avoids easy sentimentality.
Sayles:
The nature of the situation is that the women don't all get their kids on the same day. There's a very strange kind of accidental nature to it and I wanted that anxiety, that abruptness. There isn't a tearful goodbye; they just get their stuff and they go to the airport.

TVGO: This was your second time making a movie in Mexico after 1997's Men with Guns. Was this experience any easier?
Sayles:
It's never easy to make a movie in Mexico. [Laughs] I like Mexico very much, but it's a huge country and every region is very different. Acapulco was a different story than where we shot Men with Guns. The American actresses didn't hear much English on the set, so they were kind of isolated with each other.

TVGO: You've been in independent film for over 20 years. How does it compare now to when you first started out?
Sayles:
I think that independent filmmaking right now is kind of where book writing was when I wrote novels years ago. Publishers would get thousands of submissions a year and might publish one of them. And then there might be five that were actually interesting. The problem for independent filmmakers these days is getting their stuff shown rather than getting it made. There are an enormous number of movies out there, but there are only 52 weeks in the year and so many screens that show non-Hollywood movies. So there's a relatively narrow door that everyone is trying to cram through.

TVGO: What can you tell us about your next film, Silver City?
Sayles:
It's a kind of a political thriller-satire, set against the backdrop of a gubernatorial campaign in Colorado. Chris Cooper plays the ne'er-do-well son of a prominent political family who is running for governor. But then a dead body turns up while he's filming an environmental commercial, and his campaign manager decides that it was probably planted there to embarrass his candidate. So a detective is hired to find out who might have done this, and the investigation circles back to the family that has been running politics in the state for a long time. Daryl Hannah is in it, and so are Richard Dreyfuss, Maria Bello, Miguel Ferrer and Tim Roth. [Laughs] It's the usual cast of thousands.