Compiling 'best of' lists is often a fraught exercise, especially when those who are making those calls have a vested interest in the outcome.
So it is with a list of the 30 'most significant independent films' in the last 30 years chosen by the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA). The LA-based organisation is hardly impartial: its membership represents independent producers and distributors. At the top end are the Twilight studio Summit, Focus Features, Lionsgate and GK Films, influential foreign players such as France's Studio Canal and TFI International and Pathé International, and Sweden's Svensk Filmindustri. Below them are a lot of small, video-based firms and a few bottom-feeders.
The list has many curious inclusions and omissions, sparking criticism from media commentators and on the blogosphere. For starters, quite of the few independent films that are hailed as having “shaped and defined the film industry and popular culture over the last 30 years” scarcely fit the definition of independent. Braveheart, The Lord of the Rings (pictured), Million Dollar Baby and Inglourious Basterds are among those that were fully financed by major US studios.
Missing are seminal films such as The Crying Game, Seven, Sid and Nancy, Clerks, She's Gotta Have It, The Blair Witch Project, A Room With a View and anything by Mike Leigh and Ken Loach. Mel Gibson should feel aggrieved that The Passion of the Christ was overlooked.
Deadline.com's Mike Fleming questioned why an honourable mention was given to the super schlocky The Toxic Avenger, which was co-directed and produced by Troma's Lloyd Kaufman, who serves as chairman of IFTA. “This self-congratulatory gesture undermines the roster,” Fleming argued.
That elicited a stinging reply from Kaufman who said there was a secret ballot among the 27-member board and he had no influence on the outcome. Seeking to justify the inclusion of the film which spawned three sequels, a stage production and a TV cartoon, he said directors such as Quentin Tarantino have acknowledged the heavy influence it had on their work, and the Scream series and Robocop were inspired by it. More laughably, Kaufman claims the saga of a health club cleaner who goes feral after being immersed in a drum of toxic waste “brought environmental issues to consumers long before Al Gore did.”
Here's IFTA's list:
(Honorary mentions: The Killing Fields; The Last Emperor; The Toxic Avenger)
Braveheart; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Fargo; Four Weddings and a Funeral; Life is Beautiful; Pulp Fiction; Reservoir Dogs; The Silence of the Lambs; The Usual Suspects; Where the Day Takes You.
(Honorary mentions: Basic Instinct, Good Will Hunting; Trainspotting)