It is said that independent film is the future of the movies. It makes sense; while mainstream, big-budget film certainly is capable of producing some astounding works, just as often we see tons of needless remakes, reboots, and recycled formulas. Independent film gives greater opportunity for originality and new talent to shine through. Of course, not everything is going to be great, but a whole world is open to those with the drive and determination to follow their dreams.
This past weekend was a celebration of such passion. The fourth annual Derby City Film Festival at the Clifton Center showcased 56 independent films from 16 countries, including features, shorts, and documentaries. I had the privilege of being present for the whole weekend. As several films screened simultaneously, I was unable to see everything, but I present to you a basic rundown of the festival experience (in chronological order), with suggestions on what films to look out for in the future.
Wid Winner and the Slipstream: The kickoff film is the story of Wid, who feels stuck in his life until he encounters Kenneth, who is travelling around the country stealing used auto parts to build a time machine. Wid joins up, desperate for something to believe in. It is a very interesting film, as the themes it deals with are universal: regret, the desire for second chances, and above all, the desperate struggle to find relevance in one’s own life.
Johnny’s Gone: Sarah has a two-year-old boy named Johnny, and they are on the road, running away from something. It isn’t immediately clear who they are hiding from, but little by little the pieces of the puzzle fall together, and the truth presents a serious moral gray area that begs for post-film discussion, especially if you are a parent yourself. It includes one of the most tear-jerking renditions of “Wayfaring Stranger” I’ve heard since David Eugene Edwards’.
Frames: A high school student decides to film a documentary about his town, and in the process discovers what appears to be a heinous secret – or it may be nothing. It brings to mind Antonioni’s “Blow-Up” and Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” with a large dose of Hanake’s “Caché,” but it fails to live up to any of those predecessors. I spent most of the film baffled about why all the characters were emotionless drones and trying to figure out whether or not that was deliberate. (There is a line that indicates it was on purpose, but I have no idea what they hoped to accomplish with that.)