What are indie films?
From a strictly encyclopedic point of view, an indie film is a film produced without the intervention of a large production company, but this is perhaps a valid concept especially in the film market of the United States and, more generally, of the Anglo-Saxon countries.
In Europe, things are different. Large studios are few, televisions and individual 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 films with modest budgets that could be called independent.
According to this definition, the most famous European authors, and many Americans, known all over the world, are independent directors. Some streaming channels, for example, put names like Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese in the “independent” category. The reality is quite different. Within this generic category, from which we could only exclude Hollywood blockbusters, there are “truly independent” films, 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 and cinema history
Almost all the films that have experimented and developed the cinematographic language since the dawn of cinema have been highly independent films. industrial cinema was more concerned than anything else with selecting what worked to offer it with its distributive power to a more dressed audience, without ever risking large budgets for something that had not already been tested by indie 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 remain 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.
From the 1980s onwards, independent cinematography has grown tremendously thanks to video technology, but has had 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 these 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 one, where the eye of large productions has always been focused on low-budget films, with talent scouts always looking for new projects that are potentially interesting for an audience. wider. In fact, many studios have created departments exclusively dedicated to auteur and independent cinema, expanding their target to that public niche as well.
Indie films as a sustainable business?
Indie films are a sustainable business but have always played a marginal role throughout Europe. Most (almost all) European films that appear to European audiences as successes are not part of this niche, but are equally totally unsuccessful projects.
Let’s take an example: a first feature advertised as an extraordinary debut, an unassuming short film that looks like a sentimental TV drama, production cost € 600,000, promotion and marketing cost for theatrical release around € 200,000 (which is why the public knows him and consequently generates a prize in a festival).
Collection € 200,000. The film therefore has a loss of € 600,000, a good amount, thank goodness there is public money from taxpayers, as always, to cover the gap. But we could give examples of much more famous arthouse films and considered by all to be great successes that are actually at a loss.
Multiply this hole by hundreds of films each year and 40 years of public funding and you will get a huge hole like the Himalayan Valley full of money in hundred bills. Many will respond indignantly to such insinuations that it is legitimate to finance the culture. However, it must be specified that most of these films, even if financed with the label films of cultural interest, are neither culture nor art, they are unwatchable. Some are junk that is awarded prizes and awards.
The film business has not been sustainable for a long time and has been getting worse and worse. Indie films have existed since the 70s, and in a certain way they have always existed, but it is from 2000 onwards that, thanks to digital, its production costs have significantly lowered.
Films independent of public funding
In the United States, from the Cassavetes films onwards, Indie films have always generated a millionaire turnover and stimulated the interest of the Studios, because they have often churned out unpredictably profitable works. Is Independent Cinema a sustainable enterprise in Europe too?
If I produce a low-cost independent film my business risk is low and the chances of being able to make a profit are much more. But the European public is passive and prefers mainstream streams, has little or no critical conscience and believes everything they are told, especially on television.
The productive and social systems of the old continent are gigantic and very slow pachyderms recalcitrant to change, and making such speeches is taboo because it risks taking the bread out of the mouth of thousands of families of cinema workers, who live on that public money. decades.
But by now the scenario is clear: with minimal investments, technology allows you to make perfect films even from a technical point of view. I am not talking about the great mainstream cinema or period films that need high budgets, but about the whole range of arthouse films, or presumed such, which still today have stratospheric industrial costs and which we all pay by subsidizing them with our pockets.
In the United States all this does not exist, there is no public funding, and to understand which of the two systems is better it is enough to compare European films with American ones, after which each one draws its own conclusions. The low-cost film venture is becoming increasingly sustainable, but as usual it’s only happening in the United States.
In Europe, independent cinema is still wrapped in a patina of disinterest, as something amateurish or as a springboard towards the classic mechanisms of industrial production described above.
To be recognized as important directors, you must first invest millions of euros, be seen on TV and collect the prizes with a tuxedo. This smokescreen envelops everyone: spectators, critics, insiders and even directors. And if even the directors think this way, no change is possible.
And while the majority remain in their passivity turning up their noses reading these lines, we invite those who have felt a certain feeling to support truly independent cinema, for a cultural change that brings cinema to the path of art.
10 italian indie films not to be missed
According to the standard definition, Italian films are all independent simply for the fact that mainstream cinema and blockbusters do not 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 ferment. Perhaps thanks to the new digital technologies that have made the making of an independent 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 be attracting less and less interest, are among the most surprising on the international scene.
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.
Here is a list of 10 Italian indie 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. One of the best Italian independent films of 2020.
Corona days , by Fabio Del Greco – 2020 .
Made during the lockdown is a film in direct contact with reality but with a high degree of construction with Chinese boxes, genuine and instinctive, a kind of “cinediary” on loneliness and loss, which also becomes a reflection on personal freedoms.
Appennino , by Emiliano Dante – 2017
A cinematic diary on the reconstruction of the Eagle. An intimate and ironic, lyrical and geometric path, where the story of life in a seismic area becomes the tool to reflect on the very meaning of making cinema.
Abacuc , by Luca Ferri – 2015
An extremely experimental, avant-garde, indie film that challenges the viewer with unique inventions through the everyday life of a surreal character who is not easily forgotten.
Festa , 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.
Tides , by Alessandro Negrini – 2018
A river in Ireland protagonist, with its tides and the voice of a young actress. A magical, poetic indie film, where images transport us to the territories of dreams.
The mirror and the rogue , by V. De Filippis – 2020
Director, screenwriter and set designer, composer of the soundtrack, editor and post-production technician, and finally a leading actor, de Filippis makes a mysterious film that looks like no other reinterpretation of Richard III.
Lack of 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.
Mystery of an employee , 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.