Independent film began the day motion pictures were invented. In fact all films were independent until a Mr. Edison decided he was going to scoop up all the patents and try to control the fledgling business. And throughout the history of film, there were always outsiders, creating work that was of no interest to the industrialized machine. Some of that work was categorized as “art,” but most if it fell under the category of “specialized.” The term “independent,” as such was used sparingly and mostly in conjunction with particular companies or personalities.
The term “American Independent,” which connoted the sense of a “movement,” came into common usage in the late 1970s with the formation of the IFP (at the time it stood for Independent Feature Project), and crystallized with the release of John Sayles’ “Return of the Secaucus Seven,” which was released in 1980 by Ben Barenholtz’s Libra Films. If John Cassavetes was the Godfather of independent film, John Sayles was its poster child. Continue reading “John Sayles and the Indie Film Movement”
I just stumbled across an old document on my computer, in which I was responding to a request from Filmmaker Magazine for a list of the “Top 10 American Indies.” The timestamp indicates that I wrote this in July of 1996, and I have no recollection of whether it actually ran in the magazine. However, I thought I would throw it up here and see if I can get a rise out of anyone.
I think the list holds up well, and the only film I would be tempted to add is “Pulp Fiction,” which I would characterize as the film that started the decline and eventual end to what we used to call American Independent Cinema.
For what it’s worth, here is the list. Feel free to comment with your own ideas.
These, in order, would be my choices for the top 10 most important (as in influential or breakthrough) American Independent Films:
John Tilley sent me this great video he took with his brand new camcorder at the Cannes Film Festival in 1987. I edited it down, and added names for everyone John and I could identify. There are a lot of familiar faces if you’ve been in the film business long enough to remember that far back. Check it out. Maybe you are in there somewhere.
In the February 19, 1986 issue of The New York Times, Janet Maslin said in her review, “Most of ”Parting Glances” functions as a parade of homosexual stereotypes.” On the same day, several other mainstream reviews said basically the same thing. Meanwhile, every gay publication hailed the film as the first realistic portrayal of gay culture they had ever seen in a film. Due to the bad mainstream reviews, the film died a quick death at the box office (anyone remember the Embassy 72nd Street theater?). A generation later, the film is commonly thought of as a classic, a landmark film in the “New Queer Cinema.” When the film was restored and shown at Outfest earlier this year, the festival referred to it as “among the most beloved LGBT films of the last 25 years.”
I’ve always loved the summer in New York City. When others are running away to traffic-clogged resort towns, I like hanging around the city and taking in whatever surprises may be around the next corner. Among my favorite activities are margaritas at the 79th Street Boat Basin, bicycling on the path in Hudson River Park and kayaking in the Hudson itself. On days where I do all three of those things, I call it my triathalon.
My very favorite thing to do in the summer is to go to outdoor concerts, and last Tuesday night, I saw a great one. The Honeydripper All-Star band was performing at the River-to-River Festival in lower Manhattan. This is the house band from John Sayles’ new film “Honeydripper,” which Emerging will be releasing late this year. This particular night was only the second time the band had played together, but you wouldn’t have known it from watching them. They were hot! We’ve posted a clip from the concert at http://www.emergingpictures.com/hd_band.htm, so you can get a taste. This first clip features Gary Clark Jr., who in addition to being a major new music talent, is also the star of the film. We’ll post some more clips as the weeks go on, so you can see the other amazing musicians in the band. And watch for more information about the band’s upcoming performances. They may turn up in some unexpected places.