Independence Day? At SBS Movies it's more like Independents Day, with these 10 essential American indies.
By
SBS Movies

4 Jul 2016 - 11:44 AM  UPDATED 8 Jul 2016 - 1:36 PM

Click the image to watch each film in full at SBS On Demand. 

Winter's Bone

MA15+
United States, 2010
Genre: Drama
Language: English
Director: Debra Granik
Starring: John Hawkes, Garret Dillahunt, Jennifer Lawrence
What's it about?
Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence), an unflinching Ozark teenager, hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her drug-dealing father while trying to keep her family intact and save their home from being repossessed. Nominated for four Oscars at the 2011 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. 

Winter's Bone Review

 

Tiny Furniture

MA15+
United States, 2010
Genre: Comedy
Language: English
Director: Lena Dunham
Starring: Jemima Kirke, Grace Dunham, Lena Dunham
What's it about?
22-year-old Aura returns home to her mother’s NYC loft with a useless film theory degree, a boyfriend who’s left her to find himself, a dying hamster, and her tail between her legs. Luckily, her childhood best friend never left home, the restaurant down the block is hiring, and ill-advised romantic possibilities abound. Written, directed and starring Girls creator and ‘voice of a generation’ Lena Dunham, across from her real life mother Laurie Simmons, sister Grace Dunham and Girls co-stars Alex Karpovsky and Jemima Kirke.

Tiny Furniture Review

 

American Splendor

M
United States, 2003
Genre: Biography
Language: English
Director: Robert Pulcini, Shari Springer Berman
Starring: Hope Davis, Paul Giamatti, Harvey Pekar
What's it about?
An original mix of fiction and reality illuminating the life of comic book hero Harvey Pekar. Harvey (Paul Giamatti) is an obsessive compulsive who works as a file clerk at his local Cleveland hospital. At a garage sale of old records, he meets Robert Crumb (James Urbaniak), an artist and music enthusiast who is finding success from his underground comic books. Harvey begins to write his own brand of comic and first American Splendor comic is published in 1976.   

American Splendor review: Extraordinary performances from an uncharming character.

 

Brick

M
United States, 2005
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Language: English
Director: Rian Johnson
Starring: Richard Roundtree, Lukas Haas, Matt O\'Leary, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
What's it about?
High school student Brendan Frye’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) piercing intelligence spares no one. He's not afraid to back up his words with actions, and knows all the angles; yet he prefers to stay an outsider, and does  until the day that his ex-girlfriend, Emily (Emilie de Ravin), reaches out to him unexpectedly and then vanishes. Brendan’s feelings for her still run deep; so much so, that he becomes consumed with finding his troubled inamorata.

 

Blue Ruin

MA15+
United States, 2013
Genre: Thriller
Language: English
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Starring: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves
What's it about?
When Dwight Evans (Macon Blair), a loner who lives out in his his car near the beach, learns that the man who killed his parents has been released from prison, he sets out to return to his childhood home to take his revenge and kill him. However, his lack of skills in the field gets him deeper and deeper into trouble. Winner of the FIPRESCI International Critics prize at Cannes in 2013. 

 

Girlfight

M
United States, 2000
Genre: Drama, Sport
Language: English
Director: Karyn Kusama
Starring: Michelle Rodriguez, Jaime Tirelli, Santiago Douglas
What's it about?
Diana Guzman (Michelle Rodriguez) is an angry young woman living in the poverty-stricken Red Hook precinct of Brooklyn with her dismissive father Sandro (Paul Calderon) and younger brother Tiny (Ray Santiago). Her quick temper and a nothing to lose attitude earn her a reputation as a troublemaker, which boxing trainer Hector (Jaime Tirelli) agrees reluctantly to channel into boxing while also training Tiny. Written and directed by Karyn Kusama (Jennifer's Body, The Invitation).

Girlfight review: It's the flip side of Billy Elliot.

 

Short Term 12

M
United States, 2013
Genre: Drama
Language: English
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Starring: Brie Larson
What's it about?
I Am Not a Hipster director Destin Daniel Cretton's Short Term 12 won critical acclaim when it premiered at SXSW in 2013, winning both the Grand Jury Award and the Audience Award. Based on Cretton's own experience of working with at-risk teenagers, it depicts the struggles of a compassionate young woman dealing with some unexpected personal issues while working as a supervisor at a home for troubled teens. Grace (Brie Larson), a 20-something supervising staff member of a residential treatment facility, navigates the troubled waters of that world alongside her co-worker and longtime boyfriend. 

Short Term 12 review: Every heart-warming moment is completely earned

 

Appropriate Behaviour

MA15+
United States, 2014
Genre: Comedy
Language: English
Director: Desiree Akhavan
Starring: Desiree Akhavan, Rebecca Henderson, Halley Feiffer
What's it about?
Shirin (Desiree Akhavan) moves in to Park Slope, Brooklyn in an attempt to cement her identity as an ideal Persian daughter, politically correct bisexual, and hip young Brooklynite. She fails miserably in her attempt at all three formations, and is then dumped by her girlfriend, Maxine (Rebecca Henderson). Desiree reluctantly moves in to an artist’s loft in Bushwick, but unable to forget about Maxine, she forms a plot to win back her ex.

Desiree Akhavan on ‘Appropriate Behaviour’ in sex scenes (interview)
Appropriate Behaviour review

 

Dig!

MA15+
United States, 2004
Genre: Documentary
Language: English
Director: Ondi Timoner
Starring:
What's it about?
A documentary on the American rock bands The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols, and the friendship/rivalry between their respective founders, Anton Newcombe and Courtney Taylor. Over a seven-year period the groups' fortunes varied with the latter branching out from the independent scene to sign with a major record label.

 

Bowling for Columbine

M
United States, 2002
Genre: Documentary Feature
Language: English
Director: Michael Moore
Starring: Michael Moore
What's it about?
Driven by moral agitation, Michael Moore explores the culture of violence in an America traumatised by terrorism, teenage killers and economic inequality. Moore puts the hard questions to trigger-happy suburbanites and militia members, alongside the likes of National Rifle Association spokesman Charlton Heston, shock rocker Marilyn Manson, South Park co-creator Matt Stone and surviving students of the Columbine High School shootings.  

Bowling for Columbine review: A tremendously emotional and provocative piece of work.

 

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