Posted by Valentina Valentini on July 6, 2012 at 12:10 am
I figured in honor of the oh-so-American holiday and independence at its very core (chasing after your dream, the pursuit of happiness, and all that mush), I’d list the best indies of the year, released between the last two July 4ths in the United States. (I had to limit it somehow…)
The reasoning is half based on popularity (box office numbers, buzz, hype, my Facebook friends’ anecdotes), but the other half is based on a personal connection or to each project.
Beasts of the Southern Wild (June 27, 2012)
WHY: Because when I got on my very first shuttle ride of what was to be hundreds of shuttle rides at Sundance 2012, I was handed a postcard by one of the producers of Beast of the Southern Wild. I politely took it and listened to his rehearsed spiel, and then kindly told him my slate was very full but that I would try and catch, what was it? um, Southern Beasts of Something?
A week later, when I began to hear the buzz surrounding the film, I made sure I got my press ticket to a screening the next day. Those 91 minutes in that theatre were transformative. From the acting to the storyline to the cinematography to the bazaar special effects on those weird animals, I knew I was sitting in front of true independence, and true greatness. The filmmakers of Beasts took their hearts and threw them up on that screen.
I’ll never toss off a postcard from a producer that I’ve never heard of again. Lesson in humility learned.
Sound of My Voice (Apr 27, 2012)
WHY: Because this small group of filmmakers (Zal Batmanglij, Brit Marling, and also Mike Cahill who wrote their first feature together, Another Earth) is taking their very un-mainstream and original material and making their films on their own terms. When I interviewed Zal Batmanglij for a piece in HDVideoPro Magazine, he was very unapologetic (in the best way possible) about not kowtowing to a public and press that could pigeonhole him and his collaborators into a specific genre.
Pariah (Dec 28, 2011)
WHY: Because writer director Dee Rees was finishing the script simultaneous to finishing her Masters in Film at NYU and interning with Spike Lee on Inside Man. If that isn’t sheer drive and independence, than I don’t know what is.
Also, if you have seen Pariah you will know that the entire story is about independence – finding it within yourself, within your family, your neighborhood and your friends. Alike, the lead character, embodies a search for identity and purpose that all of us embody at sometime – although her story is fully unique on its own, really the themes in this gritty drama are universal for every teenager… they certainly were for me.
Like Crazy (Oct. 23, 2011)
WHY: It’s not just because the acting was fantastic or the dialogue fresh and sincere or the budget tiny and production value huge, although those aspects all play a part as to why this film made many of the ‘Best Of’ lists this past year. For me though, it’s because Felicity Jones slept on her manager’s couch the majority of the shoot.
That girl knows a good script when she sees one. She saw it in Like Crazy, and she saw something in Anna (her character). And when a truly independent and truly gifted actor sees that *something* they go stay on their manager’s couch and live on practically nothing for a few months to see it come to fruition.