Indie: An American Film Culture (2011) – By Matt Barry

Like so many other film movements, the American “indie film” is a frequently applied term to a range of films, but what is not so frequently discussed is just what is meant by the term in the first place.

Michael Z. Newman does a superb job of contextualizing the idea of the “indie” film in his book, Indie: An American Film Culture (Columbia University Press, 2011). More than just a way of describing a film’s production circumstances, Newman suggests that the label “indie” has come to represent a distinct group of films, especially in the era of independent divisions within the major studios – among them, Miramax, Fox Searchlight, and Sony Pictures Classics. Newman’s discussion focuses on key works in the “indie” movement – films by people like Tarantino and the Coen Brothers, and recent pictures such as Juno and Happiness.

In discussing trends in distribution, festivals, and even the theaters in which they play, Newman gives readers a fuller picture of the independent film culture beyond just the movies themselves. In this regard, his book is an excellent record of the moviegoing experience, offering insights into how and where these films are received. Newman considers these aspects in order to arrive at a better understanding of what is meant by the concept of “indie”, beyond just aesthetic issues of genre and narrative (though he discusses these concerns, too, specifically the ideas of realism, pastiche, and narrative form, all supported with examples from the films themselves).

Newman provides a much-needed survey of the contemporary American “indie” film scene in this well-researched and thoughtful book that deals with the films that have come to represent the movement over the past 20 or so years.

For more information on Indie: An American Film Culture, visit the website at Columbia University Press: http://cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-14464-3/indie