The Oscars are only a few weeks away, and independent movies are once again making big noise. Films such as “Little Children,” “The Queen,” “Volver,” “Notes on a Scandal” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” have garnered nominations for their stories and performances. Local theaters, however, continue to omit independent movies from their daily screenings, depriving the public from the magic of independent cinema. Independent movies have come to dominate Oscar races in the last decade, even though many of the films have not been widely seen in theaters.
Bureaucracy is inevitable in major studio movies due to the relation between money and control, whereas independent moviemakers have much more creative freedom to break boundaries with their stories. Independent cinema has always been a showcase for originality of plot, dialogue and cinematography. It is one of those rare venues where you can see exceptional films that do not count on car crashes, special effects, gunplay or steamy sex scenes to hold the viewer’s interest.
Despite the lack of main screen distribution of independent films, film festivals specific to independent films have increased the popularity of independent cinema through campaigns and press releases. The profitability of independent movies has not escaped the major studios. In the past 15 years, every major movie studio has either bought or created an art-house division. The line between Hollywood and independent movie is quickly becoming blurry, potentially endangering the whole independent scene.
Despite this entanglement, independent movies continue to embody diversity, innovation, uniqueness of vision, and have become a showcase for filmmakers from underrepresented communities to tell their stories. Furthermore, independent cinema is a measure of where society is at and what it is thinking about. Independent film is not only significant in the future of the cinema, but critical to our culture. American cinema must include the personal, eccentric and sometimes controversial voices of filmmakers working outside of the established studio system.