Within the indie film scene in America, there is a strange conspiracy abrew. Most of the "indie" films that get played across the country, that play at Sundance or similar festivals, and that win Independent Spirit Awards, are anything but independent. Looking at the list of last year's Spirit Award nominees, for instance, you can see BLACK SWAN, 127 HOURS, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, WINTER'S BONE, and RABBIT HOLE. The budgets of these pictures: 13 million, 18 million. 4 million, 2 million, 5 million. This is a far cry from an artist working outside of the system to express ideas that are truly unique and undamaged by commercial restrictions. This is not the indie tradition that defined American moviemaking in the '70s, '80s, and '90s, the tradition that enabled pictures like ERASERHEAD, SLACKER, or the great films of John Cassavetes.
Thankfully, there is a true independent cinema happening in this country, although somewhat underground. There are young, inspired filmmakers using digital technology to make films not for 10 million but for 10 thousand dollars (or less). Their stories are subtle stories, told through nuance and emotional rawness rather than psychedelic skin-peeling and over-the-top violence. And they feature actors who look like human beings, not impeccable yet unrealistic beauties like Nicole Kidman, Natalie Portman, or James Franco.
There is perhaps no greater filmmaker in this new school than Joe Swanberg. His previous features HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS, NIGHTS AND WEEKENDS, and LOL have launched him to an obscure peak of cinematic mastery. His films are expressions of the difficulties of modern life and the sometimes vapid, oftentimes earth-shattering interactions we have with our fellow human beings. Basically, Swanberg is a student of circumstances, and he paints them in his films with honesty.
This past year, Swanberg became madly inspired, writing and directing a staggering seven films. He has edited three of them, and they've all had recent major festival premieres. We are huge fans of Swanberg, and we jumped at the opportunity to showcase his new work. The three films on display, UNCLE KENT, ART HISTORY, and SILVER BULLETS, are all essential films of this decade. Each film offers a unique look at our times, beautifully scripted by Swanberg and his collaborators and performed with a vulnerability of body and spirit that you will never see from the likes of Julianne Moore or Aaron Eckhart.
Swanberg will present the three screenings of his most recent films, and they are absolutely must-attend-events. It's not often we get a truly independent voice to come to our theatre, and it's an occasion to take notice and support.
UNCLE KENT, ART HISTORY, and SILVER BULLETS play at the Ritz June 5 and 6. Check individual pages for showtimes.
This series is sponsored in part by the Austin Film Society. They will be hosting a Moviemaker Dialogue with Swanberg on Saturday, June 4 at Austin Studios. For more info, visit their site.