One of the most loaded phrases to get dropped during a general movie conversation is “independent film.”
To begin with, the term is frustratingly ambiguous, seeing as no two movie buffs will define the phrase the same way. But even on days when you do get a unified definition like, “any film produced outside of a major movie studio,” you still end up with a selection so vast and so mixed that it’s easy to write off an entire ocean of titles because your one independent movie experience was Ed Wood’s “Plan 9 from Outer Space.”
The reality is, independent filmmaking is kind of the Wild West of cinema and sorting through an overwhelming list of titles in hopes that you end up with “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and not “Bride of the Monster,” is often a daunting task.
So, to help, we at the KSL Indie Report have selected five independent films from a variety of genres (and are either streaming on Netflix, Amazon or Hulu) that we think you’ll like. At the very least, if you’re already subscribing to one of these services, it’ll be free entertainment for an evening.
Song of the Sea (PG)
Hand-drawn animation is not dead. In fact, when it comes to “Song of the Sea,” which you can currently check out on Amazon Prime, it’s beautiful, original and family friendly.
The 2014 film follows a 10-year-old Irish boy, Ben, and his selkie sister Saoirse, as they work to free fairies from the Celtic goddess Macha. If selkies, fairies and Celtic goddesses aren’t enough to interest you, the entire adventure takes place on Halloween night and is dressed with a haunting Celtic soundtrack. “Song of the Sea” is an entirely unique experience and a credit to independent filmmaking and traditional animation.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (PG-13)
“Hunt for the Wilderpeople” isn’t just a movie for the independent movie fan, it’s also a tale for poetry lovers, nature fanatics and those who feel like a “sheep trapped in a maze designed by wolves.”
The New Zealand-based adventure was directed by “Thor: Ragnarok’s” Taika Waititi, whose offbeat humor made “Wilderpeople” one of the breakout indies of 2016 and one of the most consistently funny movies I’ve seen in a long time. Currently on Hulu, “Wilderpeople” stars Sam Neill, Rachel House and Julian Dennison.
Little Men (PG)
Peter DeBruge of Variety perfectly summed up this 2016 release when he said the movie “won’t change the world, but it does understand it.”
Laid out as a series of moments between young friends in Brooklyn, “Little Men” is a small, coming-of-age film that watches the world fall apart around its protagonists. The story does cover bigger topics and questions like gentrification, but at its heart, it’s like Disney’s “Fox and the Hound” for suburban kids. Starring Jennifer Ehle and Greg Kinnear, “Little Men” is currently available on Netflix.
“Philomena” might have seemed like a pretty straightforward lost-relative tale through its marketing back in 2013, but the movie starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan ended up being one of the most interesting films of that year and an Academy Award contender.
Based on the true events surrounding Martin Sixsmith’s book “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee,” “Philomena” follows Sixsmith and Lee as they try to locate the son she was forced to abandon almost 50 years earlier. Why she was forced to give up her child and who he ended up becoming are just two of the mysteries with very compelling answers, and if you have a Netflix subscription, the 98-minute film is absolutely worth the time to hear the rest of the tale.
The first time I saw “Captain Fantastic” was at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. I didn’t have a lot of time to research my coverage for the year, so when I saw the title and then the outfit Viggo Mortensen was wearing on the marketing material, I just checked the box for my press ticket and moved on.
As it turns out, Mortensen and the cast were part of a project that lived up to the ambitious title and I had luckily checked the box for what would become my favorite film of the festival. What’s it about? Sure I could tell you or you could read the synopsis somewhere, but it will be more fun for you if you just read the name and look at the rad outfits on the movie poster and then jump right in. “Captain Fantastic” is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
“Captain Fantastic” earns an R rating for nonsexual nudity, violence and language. To see a full list of content you may want to be aware of before seeing the film, check out IMDB’s parent guide for detailed information.