There is much debate about what characterises an independent film, but, in general, it is a work without interference from major studios, from pre-production to production itself. In this sense, an independent film is not made without money – this is, in short, a characteristic of guerrilla cinema –but one in which the team runs after funding, and there is no industry investing in its making.
Independent films, moreover, can have a more personal artistic vision – something that comes from the direction – and can present what is more accurate in the style of those responsible. In the end, the big companies can get involved, yes, at some point, especially in distribution (generally through subsidiaries), because what characterises an independent film is, as said, the moment that goes from pre-production to production itself. Among so many possible ones, we chose five independent films you need to watch for our list.
The 1990s were for Matt Damon at the beginning of his consecration. At this time, he starred in some titles that pleased the audience and drew praise from critics, such as Good Will Hunting, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Rounders. The latter, directed by John Dahl (today more dedicated to directing series), became one of the highlights of his career, so much so that some of his phrases became motivational.
Rounders tells the story of Mike (Matt Damon), a man who loves to play poker, managing to win many times. He is a good professional, however, after a big defeat, he decides that it is time to try life usually. Poker is presented in its traditional way in the movie, making you wonder what it would be like today with so many poker and video poker options. His girlfriend is the great watchman who always looks for relapses and does not forgive any slip-ups. He manages to maintain a “normal” and unhappy life for a while.
However, the day comes when his childhood friend Worm (Edward Norton) is released from prison, and Mike finds himself again trapped by gambling. Unlike Mike, Worm is unwilling or unwilling to play fair. Freed from jail, Worm is still in debt, and only Mike can help.
Pam Grier was a successful actress in the 1970s, rediscovered by Quentin Tarantino, and starred in this 1997 film. Inspired by indie blaxploitation films with black actors in the 70s and 80s, Jackie Brown seems like a step back. At the same time, it’s super contemporary. A forty-year-old black woman struggles in a precarious job market and gets involved in a big drug problem. Jackie Brown has to defeat bandits, escape from the police, avoid ratting out colleagues, and still earn a lot of money.
Right from the beautiful opening, there is no way not to be at least curious about the director’s work. We see a long sequence shot to the sound of Across 110th Street by Bobby Womack, in which we observe Jackie (Pam Grier), in her flight attendant uniform, on an airport conveyor belt towards the boarding gate of her flight. Nothing happens, and we only see her in the profile without her changing her expression.
But then, suddenly, Tarantino dumps his leading lady. She went to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, after all. Thus, that beautiful female presence that mesmerizes us in the opening becomes just a memory for the next 30 or 40 minutes when the director turns his lens to arms dealer Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson).
Being John Malkovich
This an example of the craziest indie film that surpassed many expectations, including featuring an all-star cast including John Cusack, John Malkovich, Cameron Diaz, and Catherine Keener. The direction of Spike Jonze and the script foot or head but hilarious, by Charlie Kaufman, make a beautiful partnership in this feature. John Malkovich is excellent at making us laugh at himself, and romantic comedy star Cusack is unrecognizable as a fan of conspiracy theories.
Most of the time, saying that a film has an `original script` means saying it was not written from other previously published material, such as a book, article, or poem. In the case of Being John Malkovich, however, the meaning is literal: there are few times when we can genuinely say, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this!’. This film manages to fit that rare description.
Written by newcomer Charlie Kaufman, the script tells the story of Craig Schwartz (Cusack), a puppeteer who has been unemployed for several months – he spends his day’s staging, on the streets, a version of the romance between Abelardo and Heloísa (seen in the drama Em Nome de Deus) played by puppets – which usually causes him many problems. One day, he responds to an advertisement published by a company looking for an archivist. Arriving at the building in question, Craig has his first surprise: the office operates on the seventh and a half floor – a place with a low ceiling that all employees must walk hunched over.
The Blair Witch Project
The first of the indie films to have a viral campaign on the internet, The Blair Witch Project caused absolute rage and races to the cinemas when it was released. The film stole the style of documentaries and used its fame to cast doubt on whether it was based on actual events. In the early days of digital cinema, shaky, improvised camera footage was very different from what had existed in the horror genre up to that point. To this day, the film is one of the most profitable of all time, having been made on a meager budget.
This pseudo-documentary directed by friends Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick is, from now on, the biggest surprise of 1999. Budgeted at a measly twenty thousand dollars, the film intends to rescue the last days of life of three young people who go deep into a forest to shoot a documentary about the legendary Blair Witch, who, according to local legends, is responsible for the disappearance of dozens of people – a fate shared by the inexperienced filmmakers.
Run Lola Run
A very creative film with a split screen and a timeline stamped on the rush scenes. Lola (Franka Potente) is the girlfriend of a bandit who left a purse with a fortune on the Berlin subway. She has 20 minutes to bring the money and involve others like her father, a bank manager (Herbert Knaup), while the boss Ronnie (Heino Ferch) can destroy the crook. The success of that title among indie films, especially in the United States, led Franka Potente to act in Hollywood.
In the late 1990s – more precisely in 1998 – German director Tom Tykwer released one of the most creative films of the decade. Europe and the US were experiencing the peak of music videos, and this elegant aesthetic easily won over young people. With a lot of cleverness and no prejudice against this audiovisual form, Tykwer’s feature film managed to import many of its characteristics, combining them with a great script and an excellent work of direction.