Do It Yourself Filmmakers

in 15th Stockholm International Film Festival

by Roger Wilson

From the start 1990, the Stockholm Film Festival has always relied heavily on american independent movies. It´s been an important part of the selection of movies shown, but also a way of creating an image of a festival that combines commercial potential with underground credibility. Directors as Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino and trashy horrorflick-producer Lloyd Kaufman are among the more celebrated of the festivals guests through the years.

As the festival this year celebrated it´s 15 year jubilee, a new phase of independent filmmaking is apparent in many of the festival´s different sections. If american independent movies originally was all about low budget, a new generation of no-budget movie makers has taken the old directors place as the festival-scene´s most intriguing and fascinating filmmakers.

The American movie Primer appeared in the Stockholm competition-section already awarded with the grand jury prize from the Sundance Film Festival. Made with a total budget of 7 000 dollars, it´s a good example of how truly independent filmmakers can get a critical acclaim on the festival-arena. With a highly complicated storyline, involving detailed and theoretical discussions on time travelling and science, this kind of movie could only keep it´s personal expression being made outside of the film industry. Shot on 16 mm-film it doesn´t have any of the obvious shaky dv-camera estetics we often associate with low budget film. Instead the new revolution of filmmaking comes from the easy access to cheap and user-friendly editing programs for computers. The director/producer/photographer/editor/scriptwriter/actor/composer Shane Carruth could keep total control of his movie, it´s mindscrewing science fiction-content executed in a low keyed tone and with no special effects whatsoever.

The same thing can be said about the weirdly poetical War by Jake Mahaffy. A post-apocalyptic vision made by the director single-handedly without a crew, producer or budget, shot over a four year period. True avant-garde cimema made with a camera without an electric motor.

The autobiographical Tarnation is the documentary version of the phenomena. Completely made out of director Caouette´s own homevideos and photos it has many similarities with last years hit-documantary “Capturing the Friedmans”. The story of his Schizophrenic mother is told with clips that gives you a somewhat shameful feeling when the highly intimate and private clips appears on the big screen. But Caouettes advanced editing, using a lot of pop-cultural references, gives the movie more several layers and qualities. Edited on a apple imac, and made for a total cost of 218 dollars, it gives a notion of the future of documentary filmmaking. When cameras and camcorders are household items the process of turning private documentation into a professional movie is not that complicated any more.

Surely, we´ve been talking for years about how the new tecnical devices is going to change the movie industry. With movies like Primer, War and Tarnation we can now see how the visions are coming true, releasing creativity, personal storytelling and artistical freedom like never before. We can, for the first time since the 60s talk about true American independents.

Roger Wilson