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Independent American Cinema

Independent American Cinema

In a national cinema dominated by behemoth Hollywood studios, independently produced films have always made for refreshing alternatives. There’s a great, diverse history of autonomous moviemaking in the United States, by artists whose intensely personal visions and ideas would have been unlikely to see a green light from, say, MGM or Universal. This selection of American films from the collection—narrative, documentary, experimental—got made without studio financing, whether by choice or necessity. The titles below come from raw, rough, and ready directors of nearly every period, including the silent era (Body and Soul, directed by African-American pioneer Oscar Micheaux), World War II (Paul Strand and Leo Hurwitz’s political semidocumentary Native Land), the radical sixties (the fiercely idiosyncratic films of John Cassavetes and William Greaves), and the indie waves of the eighties (Jim Jarmusch and Gus Van Sant’s daring early works) and nineties (the debuts of Whit Stillman and Wes Anderson). Whether exposés on disenfranchised subcultures, character studies heavy or hilarious, or microbudgeted horror flicks, these are some of the most uncompromised films ever made.