Indie cinema can be an uncomfortable place for a movie goer. It does not always give the audience a distinct villain/hero or a clear right and wrong. It tends to blur the lines, giving the viewer some unconventional feelings or perspectives that they may not necessarily feel when viewing a conventional, Hollywood media text.
The indie text allows for this alternative perspective by focusing a great deal on character, allowing the viewer to see many sides of the character, usually making them more relatable on a human level. Instead of giving distinct labels to the characters, indie films play a game with the audience, making the viewers look at each aspect and make a judgement on the characters on their own. For example, the main character of Billy from Buffalo ’66 is not given a distinct label. He is first viewed as a prisoner seeking revenge, but as the film continues the audience’s judgement is put into question as they realize he is someone who strives for his parents approval and just really needs to use the restroom. He is turned from the antagonist, to the protagonist, to an ambiguous character as the film goes on. This is the same for the character of Graham in sex, lies, and videotape. He can be construed as the creepy man that gets pleasure from interviews about sex, but their seems to be a tortured human element that could make him more relatable. The lack of labels allows the film the explore other aspects of the human or other social/political issues that are ambiguous. These films are not typically concerned with achieving a happy ending, unlike Hollywood, so the dialogue, structure, characters, etc. can explore areas that are not conventional and that challenge the viewer. It allows the viewer to look at different sides that they may not be comfortable with themselves as they realize the characters or dialogue in the film could be something that could occur everyday.
The Geoff King article mentions that although indie cinema is an alternative space to explore different viewpoints, it is not necessarily “radical cinema.” Now what is radical cinema? King points out that there are many indie films that use controversy in order to portray an unconventional plot or sociopolitical issue. The controversy is used to sell the film so attention can be brought to an issue. However, King points out that just because indie films may have a controversial themes, it does not mean it is radical cinema. He mentions that indie cinema can have blatant controversy, but the majority of indie cinema tends to end up in the middle of the extremes. They provide an alternative perspective on a topic but they can also play to more Hollywood conventions. This is part of the struggle of indie filmmakers and distributors, they want to promote controversial issues of the minority groups but they also want to make their film relatable to a majority of viewers to get their point of view seen. I agree with King’s consensus that indie cinema is not necessarily radical. Indie films are on such a spectrum with sex, lies, and videotape on one end and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the other, and then a multitude of films seeming ambiguous on where they should be placed. There are many films that can be controversial in topic but there are aspects within the film that can intrigue a viewer to watch and understand the point being conveyed. Some viewers may find a film radical, but another group of people might have been waiting for this film and its themes to be released, because it is a part of their life and it is not at all radical. It seems to all come back to perspective.