Last week I talked about the Hollywood Blockbuster movies that make gargantuan amounts of cash and have record numbers of audiences coming to see them. This year already has seen a glut of these as Deathly Hallows, The Hangover 2 and Transformers 3, to name a few, have cleaned up at the box-office. However, often amidst these juggernauts, the smaller, independent films are lost, only to be watched by a handful of people. Whereas films such as Zookeeper and Mr Popper’s Penguins have the budget to advertise themselves on TV, radio, in magazines, billboards and on the side of buses there will always be the critically acclaimed, interesting and small budget independents that are lost on people. They, most likely will find a bigger audience on DVD and Blu-Ray, while many cinemas fail to show them at all, but there is always usually a few of these indies a summer that stand out and make a name for themselves. Throughout the years there have been a selection of Indies that have stood out while competing against superheroes and wizards and come out on the other side.
First of all, one must not assume that because a film is Indie it is an elitist art form. It just means it doesn’t have as much money to spend on production, most possibly by it being a director’s first movie, such as Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. Although some Indies take it upon themselves to cater for people who wish the genre to be a pretentious declaration of superiorly, many past summer films have been enjoyed by mainstream audiences, and could still hold coherent narratives and contain likeable characters such as Juno and Little Miss Sunshine rather than an over-confused plot that some Indies seem to believe is vital. One of the problems Indie films have is this fact that audiences think the genre deems itself better than everybody else and therefore stay away. There is also the risk factor that comes with watching an untested movie as it is a much safer bet to watch the tried and trusted, systematic Hollywood productions, especially in a time where leisure costs are increasing significantly and therefore people aren’t going to risk their money on a four hour, Swedish horror.
Although there are the drawbacks that come with the genre, many Indie films in the past have burst through the mainstream, whether it be via the cinema, critically or through video and DVD sales. Because of the adaptability of the Indies too they can be as diverse as Lost in Translation, Memento, Sideways, Requiem for a Dream, Grizzly Man or Evil Dead. These films also have the most interesting production history. Many adhere to the saying ‘Art Through Adversity’ and the problems that come with small budgets and little experience usually translate into innovation and brilliance. For instance Donnie Darko is a film that shouldn’t really work; if one was to pitch it to a host of Hollywood executives their confusion would be apparent. But, because director Richard Kelly got the best performances out of the cast, had one of the strongest scripts of the decade and kept putting in the dedication that would only be witnessed with such a personal film it became one of the best Independent films in the world, breaking into the mainstream and social culture through its sheer excellence. Many small budget independent have been catalysts for huge films in Hollywood and it is through pioneering directors and risk taking audiences that this happens. Without past films such as Night of the Living Dead, The Terminator and Clerks, we wouldn’t have the strength of movies we have today.
This year sees a number of Indie films that might just make it big. Terence Malick’s Tree of Life has taken the Palme D’or at Cannes and has been heralded as film of the year by some critics, but how many people get to see that is unknown. Personally, I will continue to look for the independent movies despite being bombarded with adverts telling me to go see Transformers and Cars 2 because of their unpredictability, personality and pioneering innovation. There is nothing better than finding a gem and recommending it for somebody else to enjoy and seeing this chain of people watch a little known movie talk obsessively about it so keep looking out for everything and give any film the same chance because it might just be the best film you’ve ever seen.