Independent Filmmaking around the Globe ed. by Doris Baltruschat and Mary P. Erickson (review)
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Reviewed by
Doris Baltruschat and Mary P. Erickson, eds. Independent Filmmaking around the Globe. University of Toronto Press. xiv, 314. $36.95

This is a book that is desperately needed at this time, when the international cinema is simultaneously exploding in ways hitherto unimaginable yet often relegated to minimal distribution, while Hollywood blockbusters continue to rule the world's multiplex theatres. Despite the reach of numerous new methods of delivery, such as streaming video, sell-through downloads, and platforms such as Netflix, Vimeo, Amazon, and others, many international filmic visions are unjustly marginalized in the marketplace, and never reach the viewers they potentially could.

The editors of this volume, and the many authors who contribute essays here, are far more optimistic about the state of international cinema in terms of audience access than I am, and that's a good thing; the films they so passionately examine should indeed be more widely screened. So it's refreshing when the editors argue for the "meaning of independence" in the framing essay for this book; for them, there's a whole world of alternative visions being produced around the world, much of it much more adventurous, and surely less crassly commercial, than mainstream product.

As Yannis Tzioumakis argues in his essay "An Increasingly Global Presence: Contemporary American Independent Cinema Outside the US," there is a whole world of contemporary cinema that exists beyond the borders of the United States, often created by one or two committed individuals who are driven solely by artistic intent, rather than any hope of a financial return. And as Teresa Hoefert de Turégano details in her contribution to the text, "European Union Initiatives for Independent Filmmakers across Europe," there are far more government and private [End Page 266] sources for filmmakers working outside the Hollywood system than there are in the United States.

In the essay "Dependency and Independence in British Independent Film," Erik Knudsen details the tensions between independent and commercial British cinema and shows how the two approaches are often at odds with each other; Mark Ryan does much the same in his chapter, "From Aussiewood Movies to Guerilla Filmmaking: Independent Filmmaking and Contemporary Australian Cinema," which describes how maverick filmmakers, using digital and film technology, are creating a new wave of work that challenges the cultural and artistic strictures of "Aussiewood," where films are made for financial reasons alone.

In a similar fashion, Gabriela Martínez examines "Independent Filmmaking in the Peruvian Context: Seeking Meaning," in a country whose commercial films don't reflect the realities of daily existence; and Lydia Papadimitriou offers additional proof of the artistic and aesthetic shortcomings of mainstream Greek cinema in her essay "In the Shadow of the Studios, the State and the Multiplexes: Independent Filmmaking in Greece."

Murat Akser outlines the conflict of "Turkish Independent Cinema: Between Bourgeois Auteurism and Political Radicalism," in which some filmmakers pursue a more aestheticized model over one that offers direct political engagement, while Mary P. Erickson offers a more hopeful take on contemporary Iraqi cinema in "Filmmaking in Iraq: A Rebirth." In an equally positive vein, Hongwei Lu in "The Grassroots Perspective: Sixth Generation Cinema and Independent Filmmaking in China" and Martin Mhando with his essay "Independent Filmmaking in Africa: New Voices and Challenges" show how personal cinema in China and throughout Africa has taken on new urgency with the development of digital technology.

This relatively new area of video filmmaking, which has actually been around since the 1980s with primitive VHS movies edited in the camera, shot with extremely low budgets and non-professional actors, marked the first iteration of video in world cinema. Now, with high-definition digital camera equipment within everyone's reach, there is a veritable explosion of new cinema projects around the globe, though, as I argue above, only a few of the these projects will ever see distribution outside their home countries.

In the final three essays in this collection, "Syiok Sendiri?: Independent Filmmaking in Malaysia" by Gaik Cheng Khoo, "Independent Filmmaking in the Canadian Arctic" by Doris Baltruschat, and "Digital Video Films as 'Independent' African Cinema" by Sheila Petty, the authors turn their attention to this new method of film production...


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