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Indie Films Worth Watching

Kevin Noonan | Monday, November 18, 2013

With all the Indie music we write about in Scene, sometimes I feel like film, especially Indie film, gets the short end of the stick. But for every weird Indie band whose album we give five shamrocks because we know you’ve almost definitely never heard of it and therefore can’t tell us we’re wrong, there’s an Indie movie with which we could do just the same thing. If you want to start getting into independent film and are looking for some good options to get started with, this list of recent Indie films isn’t too bad a place to begin.

 

“Primer” (2004) / “Upstream Color” (2013)

For a lot of independent films, the experience of watching the film comes as much from the story behind the scenes of making the movie as the plot itself. “Tiny Furniture” was Lena Dunham’s 2010 feature film writing, directing and acting debut, and it’s a film that draws fans and attention now not just as an enjoyable and celebrated independent film, but also as the work that launched her into the mainstream as it gave her the opportunity to make HBO’s “Girls.”

The same can be said for “Primer” and “Upstream Color,” both films written by, directed by, edited by, produced by, scored by and starring Shane Carruth, a former software engineer who just decided one day to start making films all by himself.

“Primer” is a complicated story of time travel, hailed by many critics as the best ever film depiction of the concept.  It’s a mind-bending thriller from start to finish and was made for a reported budget of $7,000. “Upstream Color” is a much stranger film, and one that I saw in an art-house theater in New York with an audience of just me and what looked to be a homeless man. It deals with identity and illusion in bizarre and fascinating ways that leaves much for discussion after the credits roll.

 

“Animal Kingdom” (2010)

David Michod’s crime drama “Animal Kingdom” isn’t just an independent film, it’s foreign, too ¾ the film was made in Australia. The film stars some recognizable faces from Hollywood cinema, including Joel Edgerton (“The Great Gatsby,” “Warrior”) and Guy Pearce (“Memento,” “L.A. Confidential”), but has a distinctly Australian feel. The story follows a dysfunctional crime family in Melbourne, Australia, after the youngest member, a 17-year-old high school boy, is forced to move in with his estranged grandmother and uncles after his mother dies of a drug overdose. The film is undoubtedly dark and ultimately not really uplifting at all, but it is a fascinating, car-crash-like look at the rapid decline of a family and a young man as their lifestyles combine.

 

“Pi” (1998)

Harvard-educated Darren Aronofsky showed off his smarts in his feature film-directing debut, “Pi.” The director would goes on to win great acclaim for films like “The Wrestler” and “Black Swan,” as well as scaring a generation of teenagers away from heroin with “Requiem for a Dream,” but his first film was a grainy, black and white mathematical and psychological thriller. A number theorist who believes everything in nature can be explained through numbers accidentally discovers a pattern based on a random 216-digit number, leading to obsession, paranoia and a number of intense encounters with Hasidic Jews and mysterious Wall Street agents. As with most Indie films, the film remains ambiguous and full of enigma, but the thriller is as exciting as any in the last decade of Hollywood films.

Contact Kevin Noonan at knoonan2@nd.edu