We are lucky that we have both big box films developed by major studios and the opportunity to see films financed by individuals who spend their money and time developing independent movies.
Indy films took center stage when I flew to Sundance last week for the end of the annual Film Festival and viewed several films.
Film can be a great way to entertain you, cause you think deeply about a subject, or laugh depending upon what you choose to see and the mood or need you may have. Independent films get into some pretty bizarre topics but they do seem to find an audience, and that is what makes them so special because there is a film out there for every person.
Studio movies aim to appeal to a very large and broad audience. It seems that they rely too much on well-known stars, excessive over the top violence, sex, and special effects. Independent films can be equally brutal but there seems to be more risk taking by writers and producers, which tell stories the studios will not.
Indy films are often in subtitles because they come from around the world, and help us understand how different countries think about issues, subjects, and what entertains them.
At film festivals, it is often difficult to get the movie and the time frame you want to see a film unless you know the producer of the film. But it is fun to see films with friends because there is so much to talk about afterwards, even when it is a bad film or not your interest. The element of surprise can be fun and thought provoking.
At Sundance our group was given a set of tickets to view films we did not select. Lucky for us a friend did it and we were happy just getting into some sessions.
We unexpectedly liked a film developed for children entitled “Zip and Zap.” There we were sharing the theater with many small children and their parents thinking what are we doing in here?
Well, this movie was beautifully developed, intelligent, had outstanding acting, and was a multiple theme movie that required a discussion afterwards.
The movie was filmed in Spain and was a Spanish language film. Our brains had to quickly view subtitles, faces, action, and translate back into the story being told. It was brainwork but well worth it.
The story centered around five children who met in a beautiful summer camp setting but turned out to be a place where children were treated so harshly for various acts that they began to rebel in well thought out ways.
It turned out to be an adventure for them and the audience. Bottom line themes emerged about loyalty, friendship, and higher order thinking skills. They had to use everything they had ever learned to combat the oppressive situation they incurred this summer. You found yourself rooting for them and entertained by the way they went about solving their summer camp experience.
The four us all with education backgrounds were laughing and seeing how important this film could be as a teaching tool and parent child family experience. What was most remarkable to us was that many adults and children in the theatre were not laughing or cheering for the kids.
Here is why: this movie theater was filled with children too young to understand the movie and also probably unable to read the subtitles quickly enough to understand the sequence of events taking place in a very fast pace.
Parents often do not consider the age level or maturity level of their children or the content as long as the film is promoted for children or it’s animated.
The trailers and advertisements are misleading. This was a great film for kids from fourth grade to seventh. The lack of laughter and enjoyment was clearly about age appropriateness and subtitles. I have seen many movies lately with parents and kids in tow in our local theaters that were inappropriate for child viewing.
I love movies, and after seeing several this year am clearly disappointed in those being nominated for the Academy Award for best picture. They are not bad films but also not outstanding.
For my money three films resonated this year and are up for nothing. If you have not seen them consider these: “The Butler,” “42: The Jackie Robinson Story,” and “Saving Mr. Banks.” All three have powerful stories to tell and plenty to think about afterwards.
And don’t forget, the annual Newport Beach Film Festival returns this April, and with it hundreds of independent films.
See you at the movies.
That’s My Take,
Dr. Gloria J. Alkire