American indie film and international art cinema

Points of distinction and overlap

Authored by: Geoff King

The Routledge Companion to World Cinema

Print publication date:  September  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138918801
eBook ISBN: 9781315688251
Adobe ISBN:


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How should we understand the relationship between American indie film and the broader realm of international art cinema? Both of these formations—each of which is a complex and often contested territory—are defined in large part in opposition to the dominant institution of Hollywood. But what do they have in common, and/or what markers of difference (in a neutral sense) or more value-laden distinction can be identified between the two? American indie film has largely been ignored in most academic accounts of art cinema, the international or global basis of which is often also marked in distinction from a US cinema sometimes seemingly conflated with Hollywood. Studies of indie have often viewed art cinema as a point of influence but the exact nature of the relationship has not been explored at any length or, I would suggest, with due acknowledgment of the multiple currents of each. This chapter will examine the relationship between the two formations at two main levels, closely related: the types of films involved (and the traditions on which these draw, including those associated with broader currents such as modernism and the postmodern) and the channels through which they circulate. If indie film is sometimes located in a position somewhere between art cinema and the more commercial mainstream, the argument here will be that it often draws on qualities associated with art cinema and that the lines between the two are often significantly blurred, even if some clear points of distinction can be identified and have been mobilised in certain discursive contexts.

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