Thursday, April 26, 2007

Friday Five: Independent Film

I love movies. I love all genre of movies. I'm more and more attracted to movies most people have never heard of. Technically I don't know if foreign films are considered independent, but for the purposes of this post I will place them in that category. They probably qualify anyway as they are not created in Hollywood, have much smaller budgets than Hollywood films and generally have a limited release. So for today, here are five reasons I love and support independent film.

  1. The Spitfire Grill. My senior year in high school, my aunt dragged me and my sister to see this movie. All she told us about it was that it was an Official Selection of the Sundance Film Festival (an Audience Award winner to be more exact). I loved the film and credit it for my passion for indies. Ironically, my aunt ignores most of my opinions about movies because my "superior taste" (her words not mine) and resists all attempts on my part to introduce her to new movies. She couldn't believe I made her sit through Stranger than Fiction.
  2. Film Festivals. After watching the Spitfire Grill, I started seeking out movies that were Official Selections of the Sundance Film Festival. Rachel V. is a movie buff as well, and in college we would stroll through Hastings looking for independent films to rent. Back then I didn't research films or read reviews online, so we made our decisions on the spot. We watched some bad movies, (Photographing Fairies), and odd movies (Being John Malkovich) but mostly we were rewarded with movies like Memento, Billy Elliott and Run Lola Run.
  3. Originality. Writers and directors hired to make blockbusters usually cater to the lowest common denominator or are encouraged to stick to what works, so these movies usually lack creativity and originality. Obviously, this is not always the case. And independent films suffer from the same problems too. Charlie Kaufman is completely original, and his films are good because of his originality. See Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation and Being John Malkovich if you want to see a unique vision. And you don't have to love these movies to appreciate what they bring to the film world.
  4. Documentaries. I've already dedicated an entire post to documentaries, but they are an aspect of independent film that shouldn't go unnoticed. These filmmakers work with limited budgets and are often self financed. These movies don't make much money at the box office, so to get their movies seen and create revenue, documentary filmmakers sell their movies to TV stations. What's the problem with this? For a documentary to be eligible for an Oscar nomination, it has to screen in theatres and the additional screening rules in place prevent filmmakers from working with TV. Grizzly Man was one of the highest rated movies last year, but wasn't eligible for the Oscar because it aired on cable. I have almost never been disappointed in a documentary, whereas feature films let me down consistently. So if a documentary comes to a theatre near you, pay to see it.
  5. Foreign Films. If you can't get past the subtitles you are missing out on great films. Amelie just makes me feel happy. The Best of Youth is one of the best movies I've seen in years. It's six hours long, but I want to watch it again. The martial arts films like Hero, House of Flying Daggers, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are beautiful works of art. And City of God is one of my all-time favorite movies. It's not very often that a foreign film has it's director nominated for Best Director at the Oscar, but that happened with this film. I like foreign films for their originality but also for the different outlook and voice they bring to cinema.

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