After learning about the history, watching the films, and attending the festival, I can now honestly say that I understand so much more about independent film. Independent film is a classification that does not just apply to what sells at the box office, but what makes our nation tick. Through independent films, directors and screenwriters can speak to the subconscious of Americans, making us start conversations and even actualize what is happening in our culture and the many subsets of culture within the United States and beyond. These films make us wonder, imagine, and think beyond being entertained. Taboo subjects can be talked about freely, artists can experiment, and the personal myths that we all deal with amidst other overarching cultural values can finally be brought out into the open, for all to explore. Film demonstrates a type of truth that we can experience in life, and as such, independent film does the best job of telling the most honest stories in order to gain understanding, and at the very least, further thought on the most difficult of subjects.
In terms of myth, as mainstream films tend to reinforce and perpetuate the economy religion of western culture, true independent films challenge the dominant culture values in such a way that the stories of every particular group in the U.S. can be represented in a way that communicates their realities. Independent film often included clashes between a character’s personal myth and their meta-myth, creating a difficult road for them, but hopefully demonstrating a life that was lived truthfully, if not happily. And that is the thing about independent film. It is not happy; it is real. It is as if a person vulnerably bears their whole selves to you when you watch an independent film, leaving out none of the hard times, the good times, or anything in between. Symbols, metaphors, and various art mediums combine in a way that is expressive solely of what needs to be awakened within the observer, sometimes causing confusion, but ultimately meditation on a certain thought.
If there is one thing I have learned about the filmmakers and the crews involved in independent filmmaking, it is this: they do not do it for the money. Even as years pass by and the budgets become higher for some independent films, the majority of films are made with very little money and the message of the film is often important more important than anything else in the process of producing the film. The greatest care is taken in order to deliver that message in a truthful way to audiences and judging by this year’s Sundance Film Festival, it seems that many well-known actors are willing to take part in delivering these messages too. Now, there may be some who argue this makes independent film less independent, but in fact, it is only helping to create a larger audience for the truths that must be spoken.
It was surprising to learn that so many people attend the festival and that access to the festival is not as exclusive as I had thought before coming, myself. The popularity of Sundance is just one example of how much independent film is needed and desired in the country, and throughout the world. More and more, people seem to want more of the truth that is in essence, independent film, and it was exciting to be a witness to the magic of conversation and wonder that was constantly shared throughout the festival, from each shuttle bus ride, to every new screening and question and answer period after each film.
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