What is independent cinema? Is independent cinema an auteur cinema? Is indie cinema independent cinema? What characterizes it? These are just some of the questions that we are going to try to resolve in this post today. Let’s start!
Independent cinema: a bit of history
Defining independent cinema isn’t a simple task. It’s a term with a lot of history behind and that has changed over the decades. It’s a term that is often used very lightly and doesn’t encompass purely artistic characteristics but also serves as a commercial category label or even as a cinematographic genre in itself.
The independent cinema originally arose like an alternative to the commercial cinema and to the great producers and/or distributors of Hollywood movies. It’s possible to mention as early examples the currents born in Europe, such as the English Free cinema, the French Nouvelle Vague or the Italian neorealism, or in the USA with the new American independent cinema.
What makes independent cinema different?
Its characteristics. Beyond the budget available to a film, the acknowledgments that have its director or the support of a large production house there are a number of differentiating elements that allow us to identify it so it’s possible to encompass the most outstanding features of independent cinema in the following points:
History: Focused on ‘taboo’ issues, of dubious morality or, simply, issues with a great social background in the society in which we live but of which we do not speak openly in commercial cinema. They might be factual or entirely fiction.
Subjects whose treatment in mainstream cinema is more “correct”, limited and cowardly. In independent cinema, the difference is that the director has creative freedom and gains courage in the treatment of taboo subjects. The independent cinema is much closer to reality.
Financing: A key point. A basic aspect and at the same time difficult to establish. But the truth is that the source of funding with which a film is made almost entirely determines the next point. The further away from the financing of large producers and distributors, the more independent it will be.
It may be more useful to establish the term ‘independent’ as a gradual and not absolute term. In other words, rather than looking for independent films, it would perhaps be more accurate to measure the degree of independence of a film.
Freedom: The creative freedom to tell a story and decide how to tell it is absolute. Artistic freedom is absolutely available to those responsible for the creation of their work without imposing limitations or censorship.
Closely related to the previous point as they are its creators – directors, screenwriters, actors and other artistic positions are those who have more power to decide on the film itself. For example, leaving it to the director himself to establish the final cut or final assembly.
A very popular concept nowadays and used as an incentive by the big producers to attract filmmakers of recognized prestige and talent to direct a film for them. That is, it’s a proposition whose offer consists in granting greater freedom.
Art: The independent cinema can be considered as art because it seeks to exploit the more artistic aspect and this, while the main purpose of commercial cinema is to be a consumer product and serve entertainment.