With so many movies on the big screen that translate into millions of dollars and become part of popular culture, one may wonder why anyone would take the time to watch an independent film, or even less, to make one.
While undoubtedly there is big entertainment in the tale of a perfect world inhabited by blue people or in the handsome faces of young men who can turn into wolves and vampires, the value of independent film is that it can be used as a tool to express opinions, feelings, and to educate masses under the pretense of entertainment.
Take, for example, the movie that was released just a couple of weeks ago, Chasing Madoff, and the way it makes a complicated real-life financial mess accessible to any viewer. Were you to give the same story in written form to a group of people, chances are quite a few would put it down before long. This is because financial terminology and tales of schemes called “Ponzi,” written by men whose names are always followed by multiple capitalized letters advertising just how much they know, does not make for enthralling reading. However, put that on the big screen, with a quirky finance-guru-turned-actor looking directly at the camera telling you his story, and the complicated tale, now helped by visuals and sound, becomes interesting to anyone watching.
With the cutest, most romantic, of stories, independent film can move its viewers to achieve more. That is exactly what the upcoming French film, My Afternoons with Margueritte, accomplishes. In a tale that is of a different kind of love, one that develops between two strangers of two different ages and backgrounds and from the most basic human need of company and mutual understanding, this film does much more than leave the viewer feeling good. The characters read to each other sections of books written by great authors, like Camus’ The Plague and The Stranger, making literature, in the process, attractive to the viewer. The viewers who have read Camus will remember the beauty of his art and those who have not will be motivated to discover him.
The Australian film Animal Kingdom dealt last year with the ugliness that humans are capable of, the influence of the elders over their young, and the possibility of the germ of badness brewing in the midst of day to day living. It is more than just a cop show with lots of bloody scenes. It is food for thought that allows the viewer to go home and consider the legacy that he or she is leaving his own children.
Independent film, most importantly, highlights the universal human experience. Separate from language, location, social status, gender, etc., humans are all faced by similar circumstances. By life we are offered the same beauty and punished with the same pains. Independent film allows us a look at how the rest of the world deals with the same matters we face daily.
A great blockbuster may have you saying “Wow!” as you leave the movie theater, but an independent film can make you think for weeks about an issue, pick up a book, decide never to eat McDonalds again, or give you a peek into fabulous caves you would have never seen otherwise. The value of independent film is that it is education disguised as entertainment.