What are independent films?
An independent film , also known as indie film , is a film produced without the intervention of a large production company, produced completely independently by all the great Studios. Independent films are often described as original and unconventional. But there are innumerable ambiguities and nuances in this definition.
The world of independent cinema is a complex world, which reflects the development of the film industry and society. Independence In fact it is a way of thinking and acting, which can be found at various levels both in cinema and in life. Financial independence, Independence of ideas, Independence of action, Independence from canons and dominant fashions.
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How indie films are born
Almost all the films that have pioneered and developed the cinematic language since the dawn of cinema have been indie films. industrial cinema was more concerned with selecting what worked to offer it with its distributive power to a more dressed audience, without ever risking large budgets for something that hadn’t already been tested by independent cinema.
All the pioneers of turn-of-the-century cinema, all the avant-gardes and movements that changed the history of films were puppy independent films with a few rare exceptions in the bravest mainstream world. Independent and artistic cinema has always explored new territories while the entertainment industry has always preferred to stay safe in reassuring and low-risk places.
The stories, the characters, but above all the languages that independent and experimental films have been able to discover were fundamental in times when it seemed that the business of moving images produced copies of films that were all the same.
Independent films and the phenomenon of independent cinema was born with the invention of cinema. A number of inventors and manufacturers of the first film projectors and shooting systems operated in the shadow of the large groups. These groups, Edison, Biograph and Vitagraph, held the power and patents needed to monopolize the film industry. As soon as any independent inventor managed to create better devices than theirs, they neutralized it with legal action.
The goal was to have absolute control of the industry to maximize their profits. In the early 1900s, independent cinema thus became a sort of romantic struggle against monopoly giants such as the Patents company. These monopolistic companies, however, coalesced and all merged into the creation of Hollywood , which gives almost a century is a conglomerate of Studios that manage the control of theaters and distribution in the United States and around the world. & nbsp;
Independent films, at the dawn of cinema, were aimed at the niche of provincial cities of the American states that were not always reached by mainstream productions. Or addressed to a specific ethnic group like that of black men. Or to a certain youth subculture that was neglected by mainstream films.
Several inventions came from independent inventors who operated in cinemas that weren’t controlled by the Studios. For example the wide screen, and later, in the 1950s, three-dimensional cinema.
From Hollywood creations onwards, the dialectic between high-budget films and independent cinema becomes continuous. Some writers start as independents and then go to work in Hollywood studios. Others take the opposite path and decide to have more freedom of expression after the first films. Even the famous actors work on both types of films, which in some cases get confused.
Producers such as David Selznick and Sam Goldwin understand that producing independent films as well, already having the resources of a large studio, can be an interesting activity. The most important battle against the big studios was made by United Artist a distribution company created by Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin , Douglas Fairbanks and D. W. Griffith . Producer Selznick’s success in indie cinema hinted that things would soon change.
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The development of independent films
Since the 1950s, the industrial assembly line in Hollywood begins to grant works to independent external producers and directors, leaving more room for creativity. This way of working gave birth to a hybrid independent cinema , created by the collaboration between large studios and small independent companies. Many Blockbusters are produced by independent companies in collaboration with the Studios.
The phenomenon of independent cinema has increased significantly in the last 30 years thanks to video and digital technologies. It is now a boundless universe that lives next to Hollywood’s mainstream cinema. annual films.
What movie is this? What is the lowest common denominator of independent films? It is difficult to answer this question. Each independent film has its own personality. Every independent director has his own creative motivations. Independent cinema is certainly the mirror of independence in everyday life . The independent film often arises as a critique of the dominant system, as an alternative film with greater sensitivity and creativity.
Just as in life there are citizens who question the dogmas and truths of the dominant information systems, who do not lower their heads to the absurdities of power and who want to think for themselves, in the same way independent cinema is made up of filmmakers. and people who want to make something that goes beyond the standards of cinema that submits to commercial approval.
The genres of independent films
The genres, however, can be the most varied: there is the filmmaker who makes a intimate film like a personal diary that would be impossible to shoot in the film industry. There is the director who uses independent cinema to give life to his social and political ideas, without following the winding road of finding big funding.
There is the director who feels part of a community and wants to tell that community through his documentary. There is the director who goes into the territories of experimental cinema and the avant-garde with the intention of deconstructing the language and renewing it. And there is also the independent cinema that is born with purely commercial intentions, the cinema of exploitation, or the production of B movies like those of the American director who more than any other has been able to transform indie films into profitable products: Roger Corman.
In short, independent cinema is an extraordinary galaxy, much more complex, heterogeneous and stratified than mainstream cinema. You could spend a lifetime discovering independent cinemas from various countries around the world and their often unknown authors. And you would be impressed by the quality of the films, often not accompanied by as much notoriety.
American independent cinema
In the 1960s, a trend of artistic and avant-garde independent cinema was born. And the American New Wave which has its corresponding movement in various countries of the world such as the French Nouvelle Vague and the Iranian New Wave. The progenitor of this beautiful movement in the United States is John Cassavetes, who made his first film of the 60s, Shadows.
The characteristic of this type of film is the realistic setting and the centrality of the characters, often played by ordinary people. Together with the experimentation of a free and new language. Filmmakers like Maya Deren and Stan Brakhage instead seek a more experimental and underground way, far from narrative.
This type of cinema slowly contaminates the Hollywood mentality over time. In the 70s the industrial system is on the brink of the financial abyss, its production mechanism no longer works, the films cost too much and are unable to recover the expense with the proceeds. It is precisely independent cinema that saves industrial cinema.
Movies like Night of the Living Dead, Halloween, The Last Man On Earth, and many others in the horror genre were hugely financially successful. Youth counterculture films like Easy Rider made Hollywood understand the importance and magnitude of these phenomena. Independent cinema showed Hollywood the strength of an often rough, violent, erotic language, as for example in Russ Meyer.
Browse the independent film category
In the 1970s, Hollywood began to imitate some very successful independent films with more expensive versions. As for example in the case of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist and Steven Spielberg’s The Shark. In those years, Hollywood understood the public’s demand for independent films and managed to regain that slice of the market, leaving the crumbs to independent productions again.
This did not happen in the art and avant-garde sector, the phenomenon of the so-called New Hollywood. Independent directors with original languages and aesthetics such as Martin Scorsese and Robert Altman gave birth to New Hollywood. However, it was a short-lived episode and relegated to the Festival circuit. In the 80s Hollywood and right-wing politics reaffirmed itself with arrogance, regaining the market and consensus. Scorsese, Altman, and many others began working for the departments of arthouse cinema of the Hollywood majors.
European independent films
In Europe, things are different. Indie film is a popular definition especially in the United States, but the term is more ambiguous in Europe. There are few large studios, television and state funding are the major film producers. It could be argued that 90% of European films, like a large part of US films, are small indie films with modest budgets that could easily be called independent films in the United States.
According to this definition of independent films, the most famous European authors, and many Americans, known all over the world, are independent directors. Certain streaming channels, for example, put names like Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese in the indie movie category. The reality is quite different. Within this generic category, from which we could only exclude Hollywood blockbusters, there are indie films “truly independent”, that is, made in an artisanal way or, for the most successful ones, we could say “state of the art” with minimal budgets. and almost non-existent.
Indie films, the new frontier of digital cinema
From the 1980s onwards, independent cinema has grown tremendously thanks to video technology, but has seen an exponential increase since the early 2000s with digital and sophisticated compact cameras that today guarantee a quality similar to that of mainstream productions.
Added to this are digital editing software such as Adobe Premiere, Final Cut and others that offer the simplicity of classic editing and incredible post-production capabilities for image, color, sound and special effects.
The only market in which independent films have always been taken very seriously is the US, where the eye of large productions has always been focused on low-budget films, with talent scouts always looking for new potentially interesting projects. for a wider audience. Many studios, in fact, have created departments exclusively dedicated to auteur and independent cinema, expanding their target to that public niche.
Watch the video of director Fabio Del Greco explaining his vision on the new possibilities of making and distributing independent films in the age of digital technology. (subtitles with automatic translation)
The best Italian independent films
By standard definition, Italian films are all independent films, simply because mainstream cinema and blockbusters don’t exist! With the necessary exceptions for the most famous comedians of cinepanettoni and companies. But for “real” independent cinema, things are very different, and the production is very lively.
There is no doubt: Italian independent films are experiencing a season of great creativity and excitement. Perhaps thanks to the new digital technologies that have made the making of an indie film possible outside the classic dynamics of film production, which in Italy are exclusive to those who live within a specific caste.
Perhaps because we live in a period where in our country there are conflicts that generate a strong need to express oneself, the works of Italian independent cinema, as opposed to those of mainstream cinema that seem to attract less and less interest, are among the most surprising of the international panorama.
But a warning is a must: I’m not sure about films for those who still think of cinema as a spectacular high-quality product with well-known actors, but products designed and created in a profoundly different and new way, often made without any budget. , very far from what we are used to seeing in theaters. A bit like it is profoundly different to go to a circus show or enter a modern art gallery.
Indie films you must see
Here is a list of independent films (not a ranking) that we absolutely recommend you don’t miss.
The Kempinsky method, by Federico Salsano – 2020
The road is made of water, the destination is falsely unknown: the images of Federico Salsano‘s atypical road movie capture the eye and seduce the mind. A journey across the ocean that becomes the metaphor of the journey of life. An obsessive, ironic, intimate flow of thoughts that is a confession of the doubts and unresolved plots of an entire existence. The landing in Cuba as a castaway, naked, fleeing the conflicts of the West. And the final search for that meaning that seems to continually escape. But is there really a sense? A metaphysical and spiritual film built as a stream of consciousness with splendid dream images, which does not take itself too seriously but which does not refuse to face the drama of human existence. One of the best Italian independent films of 2020, perhaps of the decade.
Corona days, by Fabio Del Greco – 2020
Made during the lockdown is an indie film shot in direct contact with reality, partly fiction, partly documentary, with a high degree of Chinese box cinema construction, genuine and instinctive, a kind of “cinediary” about loneliness and on loss, which also becomes a reflection on personal freedom. The protagonist, played by the director Fabio Del Greco himself, finds himself locked in the house alone during the lockdown. It is a moment of inner reflection on his own life, on the loss of his father, on the changes in the society around him. A moment also of transgressive outings to take walks in the pine forest behind the house that look like stalking of an action film, an impossible search for an open bar to have a coffee, a symbol of lost sociability.
Appennines, by Emiliano Dante – 2017
Appennino is a cinematographic diary that begins with the slow-moving repair of L ‘Aquila, the director’s city, in Italy, and also proceeds with the quakes in the central Apennines of 2016-17, approximately the laborious and really long asylum of the new earthquake sufferers in S. Benedetto of Tronto. An intimate as well as paradoxical , lyrical and also geometric story, where the inquiry of living in a seismic location becomes the device to review the really definition of making movie theater of fact.
Abacuc, by Luca Ferri – 2015
An extremely experimental, avant-garde film that challenges the viewer with unique inventions through the everyday life of a surreal character who is not easily forgotten. Abacuc is a guy condemned to roam in a esoteric and cool hell, without life. Abacuc is a man of nearly 200 kilos, who spends his time in a tranquility removed from any type of feeling, he mainly goes to the cemetery, to motif parks in Italy in miniature or near optimistic designs. Abacuc represents the need of the cinematographic art to self-extinguish and implode in itself.
Feast, by Franco Piavoli – 2018
The master of poetry cinema Franco Piavoli, authors of masterpieces such as “The blue planet” and “Voices in time”, returns to film the everyday life of a country on a feast day. Franco Piavoli, author of the work of art “The blue earth”, returns to the direction to record the “night of the day of celebration”, between Leopardi and Pascoli. What does it stand for, from a material as well as symbolic factor of view? It does not require any type of tinsel, Feast, and arrives right in the viewer’s heart without stratification, without any kind of deviation from the course, without any addition. Opera and poetry cinema by a director who has always lived and worked far from the film industry. There is nothing further from the cinema than Franco Piavoli’s independent cinema.
Tides, by Alessandro Negrini – 2018
Can the story of a river reveal the meaning of a life imprisoned by history? Despite the end of the conflict, in Northern Ireland there is still a city with two different names: Derry, for Catholics, Londonderry for Protestants. In the center of the city, a river streams: The Foyle, which separating them literally, has become their physical boundary in spite of itself. Tides – a tale of lost and discovered lives and also dreams, has actually won 6 worldwide awards. A fascinating flow of desire images on the themes of boundary, time and also desires. One of the best independent films of recent years, not to be missed, magical, poetic, where the images of the director Alessandro Negrini, an Italian living in Dublin, transport us to the territories of dreams.
The Mirror and the Rascal, by V. De Filippis – 2020
Director, screenwriter as well as set designer, composer of the soundtrack, editor and editor, and finally also protagonist, De Filippis makes a mystical film that is a reinterpretation of Richard III. The Mirror and the Rascal is an experimental film based on William Shakespeare’s “Richard III”. It tells the delirium of contemporary power in the reinterpretation of an author of cinema, video clip art and even music. The protagonist, Richard Duke of Gloucester, brother of King Edward IV, with a long series of crimes removes all the obstacles that separate him from the throne of England. Valerio de Filippis, is a well-known painter who has actually been following his research path for some time, investigating the association between light, corporeality and mind. The mirror and the rogue is the cinematographic equivalent of Valerio De Filippis’ painting, his figurative drawing actually remains very clear looking at his paintings.
Lack-Purgatory, by Stefano Odoardi – 2016
Unusual and powerful images, an enigmatic film, a dreamlike journey between half-damned souls waiting. Inspired by Homer, Paul Éluard, Allen Ginsberg, Odoardi composes an Odyssey full of echoes.
Employee’s mystery, by Fabio Del Greco – 2019
An “Orwellian” and complex film about digital social control with powerful images of the protagonist’s past, played by the director himself, at various times in his life.
Gold and Lead, by Emiliano Ferrera – 2020
A heartfelt tribute to Sergio Leone’s cinema with an exceptional cast, excellent photography and a scenographic reconstruction that has nothing to envy to the most famous westerns.
A large room, a lonely pianist, a mysterious presence and the world outside, within lonely streets, around a swimming pool, along a river, still her, still her. Hollow memories of a love story. An assiduous game of mirrors awaits the man, when a strange woman knocking on his door is too much like the soul that dwells in his house.
A poetic work with a linearly intelligible structure that harks back to the imagery of gothic-romantic films, life after death and love beyond any concrete obstacle to living, with the center its indissoluble mystery and the transience of earthly love, the sense of belonging to one’s home and the desire to escape from the tormenting memories of the past that still bind you to the present.
Irene in Time
A father who has long since disappeared affects the life of his daughter, Irene. Irene talks about her father of her, remembers her youth, associates her old friends and even goes out with men with whom she wants to fill the emptiness of her life. But her encounters are a series of failures.
“Irene in Time” is part of Jaglom’s “Women’s Trilogy” on women’s problems. Shot with the usual acting improvisational style of the Californian independent director, the characters and their humanity are at the center of Irene In Times, a film acted in an authentic, interesting, fresh way, different from the acting of industrial films.
Aspiring actress Margie Chizek seeks stardom in Hollywood. She is rejected by the cinema scene, falls in love, discovers the deceptions behind the world of film advertising, and understands her identity better. Saved from ruin by a kind producer, Margie manages to enter the world of the rich in Hollywood and falls in love with a young actor, who is building his career by pretending to be gay.
Hollywood Dreams by Henry Jaglom is a subversive film, a satire of an industry that is based on deception. Inspired by the productive freedom and improvisation of the actors of John Cassavetes’ independent cinema, more rigorous and exciting than Henry Jaglom’s other films, Hollywood Dreams focuses on a smiling actress who suddenly becomes famous.
The life and art of Gilberto Gil, musician and influential man in the most recent history of Brazil. From musician creator of the Tropicalism movement to first black man appointed Minister of Culture in Brazil.
In Viramundo, a documentary directed by Pierre-Yves Borgeaud, Gilberto Gil takes a fascinating journey to the peripheries of the rich and technologized world. A journey in symbiosis with nature, which starts in Brazil and arrives in Africa via Australia. It is not a simple tour but an extraordinary opportunity for encounter and exchange between ethnic groups and cultures.
Miriam Besson and Antoine Besson are a divorced couple. They have a daughter who is about to turn eighteen, Joséphine, and an eleven-year-old son, Julien. Miriam wants to keep her youngest son away from her father, whom she accuses of being a violent man. He asks for exclusive custody of Julien: the child is traumatized and does not want to see his father again.
In Custody Xavier Legrand tells the characters with great humanity. A dramatic story in which little Julien is destined to lose the ingenuity of his childhood in a battle for survival. The film, shot with a sober and intimate style, highlights a bitter and hopeless vision of human nature, with men who, in order to escape loneliness and failure, become violent and murderous persecutors.
Karlene Faith is a social worker who works in the women’s prison where Leslie Van Houten, aka Lulu, Patricia Krenwinkel aka Katie and Susan Atkins aka Sadie are held. They are three “Manson’s Girls”, the girls of the sect of Charles Manson, guilty of having participated in heinous crimes, sentenced to the death penalty for the murder of nine people, including actress Sharon Tate.
Director Mary Harron does not describe Charles Manson as the personification of evil, an enigmatic and cursed character. Instead, he portrays him as a mediocre, racist man, a failure who has failed to realize his dream of becoming a musician and vents his pent-up anger and frustrations by humiliating others, in a crescendo of madness and violence.
Joachim Zand, a TV producer in crisis, returns to France after a long stint in the United States. Joachim had cut off all relations in France: friends, enemies, children. He arrives with a group of chubby, boisterous Californian strippers who do burlesque shows and who he wants to show in Paris.
Tournee is a film on the road where the burlesque shows were actually performed for a live audience during the production of the film. The story is inspired by Colette’s 1913 book on the dance hall experience in the early twentieth century, The Other Side of Music-Hall. Presented at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Fipresci award, the most important award of film critics, and the award for best director.
Three friends in their fifties are invited to the wedding of Philippe, a mutual friend of theirs from youth, who after many love affairs seems to have found the right woman, Tasha. Chantal is alone, her relationship with her husband is in crisis and the bizarre job of promoting bitter chocolate is a disaster. Gabrielle is an uninhibited and libertine friend of hers, convinced that having sex is the only way not to grow old. And then there’s Nelly, depressed and frigid, or so it seems.
A bitter comedy, a road-movie with three women in their fifties, amidst joy, anger, sadness, fun and melancholy.
The Fifth Season
In a small town in the Ardennes lives a community that is about to celebrate the end of winter with a traditional bonfire. A boy and a girl are discovering love and desire. Pol, a nomadic beekeeper, also arrives in the village and settles in the center of the village in his trailer, together with his disabled son. The joy of the party vanishes when a strange event occurs, interpreted by the villagers as a bad omen: the fire of the stake does not light.
The starting idea is brilliant. The result is an anthropological and philosophical film, divided into four chapters, with a splendid photograph inspired by Flemish paintings. Snow covers everything, even the chatter of the villagers, which leaves room for long metaphysical silences. The fifth season is an allegorical film, loaded with powerful symbols and metaphors, in which nature is the real protagonist.
Anna and her 8-year-old son Anders flee a tragic family past: the child’s father is a violent and dangerous man. They move into a secret house and Anna buys a babycall to keep Anders in check while he sleeps. One night Anna wakes up with a start: noises come from Anders’ room, it seems a murder is taking place. But when the mother goes to the baby, nothing seems to have happened.
Noomi Rapace brilliantly plays a restless and obsessed with control character. A woman who never smiles, shady, trying to save her fragile mental balance. Story of love, motherhood and violence, between gray city exteriors and claustrophobic interiors.
Into the Mirror
The story of Daniel, a young man starting a new life in London. Daniel struggles with his gender identity and his mother’s recent death forces him to deal with repressed memories of his childhood. His new boss exploits his vulnerability and Daniel’s world appears to be in free fall when he meets Jennifer, a drag queen from a local nightclub, who helps him accept his true identity.
Festival in Cannes
Cannes, 1999. Alice, an actress, wants to direct an independent film, and is looking for financiers. She meets Kaz, a talkative businessman, who promises her $ 3 million if she uses Millie, a French star who has passed her youth and no longer finds interesting roles. Alice tells the story of the film to Millie and the actress falls in love with the project. But Rick, a prominent producer who works for a large Hollywood studio, needs Millie for a small part in a film due to shoot in the fall, or else he will lose his star, Tom Hanks.
A film shot with great stylistic freedom, like a documentary, during the 1999 edition of the festival, which focuses on the performances of the actors with a spontaneous and fluid improvisation method, inspired by the cinema of John Cassavetes. A light and moving sentimental comedy, where the conflicts and frailties of the stars of the show business gradually emerge, bringing the important themes of life to the surface.
Italy, during the duration of Covid-19. Matteo Rovere is over forty years old, paranoid, hypochondriac and resides in a small apartment with his old mother, dealing with his boring days in a compulsive way. He goes out very little, and even when he goes out shopping or to buy cigarettes, he decontaminates every single product a certain number of times. He does not enter the house unless he has taken off his shoes and is completely undressed. He doesn’t even touch his face without first washing his hands completely. In short, his life has become a nightmare.
Winner of many awards at festivals around the world The Offline is a completely independent low-budget production made thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of a team of young artists, an honest and realistic film, outside the logic of the commercial film market. A small independent gem, shot entirely in Ischia, with a cast mostly of locals.