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in Filmmaking
on Dec 22, 2008

Below Filmmaker contributor Karina Longworth, who can be regularly found at Spout.com, contributes her thoughts on 2008 in film.

In the week or so since indieWIRE began posting individual ballots for their 2008 Critics’ Poll, I’ve found that all anyone really wants to talk about are the lists of Best Undistributed Films. For those of us who spend serious time on the festival circuit, the number of great and very good films which end the year without confirmed theatrical distribution is too high to be contained by a single list. Even in expanding my Best Undistributed Top 10 from the indieWIRE ballot to a Top 14 for posting on Spout, there’s a number of films that I feel terrible about leaving out, including Three Blind Mice, Present Company, Guest of Cindy Sherman, NIght and Day, Somers Town, Genova…I could go on, and if I’ve seen you in the past week, I probably have.

I think about this stuff every day, and yet, when it comes to What It All Means, I haven’t quite formulated a soundbite-friendly answer. All I know is that in three weeks, we’ll be heading into the 20th anniversary of sex, lies and videotape‘s premiere at Sundance, an event which redefined the meaning of success for an independently produced film. Almost ten years ago, circa Erin Brockovich, I remember lying awake one night worrying about Steven Soderbergh’s career –– once responsible for Julia Roberts’ Oscar, would he ever make something as personal and indifferent to Hollywood commercialism as sex, lies again? Now, I lie awake at night worrying if people who are making films as personal and indifferent to Hollywood commericalism as those by Gerardo Naranjo, Matthew Newton and Frank V. Ross will ever get to have a career anything like Steven Soderbergh’s –– because before we can even wonder if they’ll ever get to prove their mettle through the moderately-budgeted studio films which lead to the franchise blockbusters which result in the clout necessary to mount completely uncompromising 4.5 hour dream projects, we have to wonder if they’ll ever see success on the level of the million-dollar Sundance sale.

I know that we’re in the middle of another redefinition — or rather, we’re getting around to forming several new definitions of indie film success –– but it’s happening more slowly, it’s more fragmented, and it’s happening within a fairly insular space that’s of little interest to the mainstream entertainment media. And it’s because of that lack of interest that, with these lists, on our blogs, and even in private conversations, we’re creating fragments of an historical record that’s becoming more important to the preservation of film culture, and thus to the sustenance of individual filmmakers, than I would have ever previously thought imaginable. I’m excited. And terrified.

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