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Finding the filmic experiences you won’t see in Hollywood

Going off the beaten path of mainstream cinema can open up a world of delights – but knowing where to start your search for new movies can quickly feel overwhelming. A contributed post from Jeremy Bowler supplies a beginner’s guide to independent films, and where to find them.

As a lover of film, or even someone who is discovering a burgeoning passion for the medium, it’s all too easy to get caught in the cycle of Hollywood marketing, no matter where you are in the world. Even local cinema and creators can get eclipsed by the cycle of hype generation and constant discussion of the blockbusters that, while fun and sometimes thought-provoking, can give a rather myopic idea of the medium. But where do you find the experiences that you won’t see in Hollywood?

Start with the big lists

There’s a certain penchant for snobbery disguised as discerning criticism within the film world, and some critics will put off the journeyman film explorer by turning their noses up at anything with even the faintest whiff of mainstream appeal. However, if you’re just starting to spread your wings away from the kind of film dominating modern cinema, there is nothing wrong with a wide-spanning curated list, even if it’s one that’s particularly popular like the Criterion collection. These are great places not only to get an idea for the classics that have shaped genre in the past, but also to find a fair few hidden gems amongst these that you’re not likely to see otherwise. As your appreciation grows, then you might find yourself wanting to find even more diverse forms of cinema.

Join film communities

There’s no one news source that’s always going to be able to point out the next interesting indie expression in cinema, nor the hidden gems that you might have missed in your movie-going history. Instead, you should look to find like-minded people, people who talk about and share movies that you’re not likely to have seen before. Sites like the Indie film subreddit can be a decent place to start, and the deeper you look, the more you will find pockets within these communities leading to other communities with even more niche or avant-garde tastes, giving you plenty of material to explore. Be warned that the online indie world can be a little eager to gatekeep, but you can ignore that without consequence.

Get into step with the indie scene

As you begin to learn a little more about these communities, forums, and from the voices that stand out as being able to point towards experiences you don’t normally see in the cinema, then you’re going to start getting a grasp of the indie scene. Following the indie movie sites, festivals, and writers that have a lens that appeals to your tastes. Of course, you can always take a look at the Indy Film Library Awards as a good place to start. Just be aware that no one site, body, person, or the like is ever going to be the authority on all that is good with cinema. Explore a breadth of sources.

Explore foreign cinema

Sometimes, finding the hidden gems and interesting explorations in your own country’s cinema, or even the underappreciated pieces of hegemonic Western movie making is difficult enough. When it comes to foreign cinema, it can feel like we really get the dribs and drabs. Even if they’re good, it can leave you wanting more. In this case, it really is all about finding the communities that foster sharing and translating these movies when there is no official source. Anime torrent sites are one of the prime examples of this grassroots movement that, in large part, played a huge role in the proliferation of Japanese animated cinema across the world. Of course, it means having to contend with different standards for movies and narrative, but that’s all part of the fun of exploring.

Hit up your local small theatres and art galleries

If you want to get to filmmaking at its most grassroots level, then the ground floor is typically in your local independent theatres and art galleries. These are not going to be getting the big Hollywood blockbusters most of the time and you might even be able to tap into your local filmmaking scene. When you’re watching works by people based in the same community as you, it can really help to build an understanding of the realities of filmmaking for most people, especially those who don’t have endless budgets and marketing campaigns.

As indie film enthusiasts, it’s only natural to keep one’s finger on the pulse of cinema well beyond what’s being shown in every theatre it can find. Hopefully, the tips above help you find those new releases you might miss otherwise or the classics that you have never had the opportunity to enjoy.

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