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American Independent Film


Key information

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Module description

This course looks at some of the varieties of independent cinema that have emerged from America since the early 1980s.  Films by directors such as John Waters, Jim Jarmusch, David Lynch, Spike Lee, Todd Haynes, Lisa Cholodenko, and Richard Linklater, will be examined both within the context of their cinematic precursors and influences, and the wider social and institutional circumstances that helped to create audiences for them. At a time when all of the major Hollywood studios have independent subsidiaries, which produce big-budget 'indies' that regularly grab the limelight at the Academy Awards, trying to decide what makes a film 'independent' raises a number of questions.  Within the context of commercial feature film production, has the term 'independent' become just another form of branding or product differentiation (mapping out its own pantheon of producers, auteurs and stars)?  Or are the circumstances of independent production, distribution, and exhibition more varied and complex than this?  While American independent cinema has often been defined according to industrial and institutional criteria, it has just as often been identified with formal experimentation and/ or a willingness to tackle subject matter considered too controversial, confrontational, or just plain obscurantist for Hollywood.  From New Minimalism to New Queer Cinema, from Trash to Gen-X, this course plumbs the last quarter-century of American independent cinema to pose questions about its continuing social and aesthetic vitality.

Assessment details

  • 500 word blog entry (10%)
  • Essay 2500 essay (90%)

Subject areas