Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Look at a Current Independent Film

There is something about current independent films that really appeals to me. More and more often the makers of these excellent pieces of cinema are doing a remarkable job of pushing the envelope in new and exciting directions. This is independent film making at its best.

On a recent Saturday night, I discovered one of these hidden gems. It was the 2008 movie "Humboldt County". I am told that a certain segment of my audience is now nodding with approval, doing their best "Cool man" phrases and letting a knowing smile play across their lips.
Me? Well, I lead a sheltered life and had no idea that Humboldt County even existed. Which I am told it does, but don't tell any one.

The film revolves a young man named Peter, who hopes to be bound for medical school, but is failed in one of his necessary classes by his professor, who is also his father. Bummer, dude (for the HC crowd).

He is none to happy about this and even less so that his father delivered the final blow to a dream that he wants for his son even more than his son wants it for himself.

Peter does what many of us would do. He turns to a night a drinking. He loosens up. He meets a girl, Bogart, and spends the night with her. The HC crowd can already see where this is heading.

He awakes the next morning to find himself in Bogart's truck heading home with her to Humboldt County. This is a beautiful stretch of country hidden away in northern California. Peaceful people live and work here. It's mostly an agricultural community. For the farmers of Humboldt County make their living growing marijuana. Now you see why the HC crowd found this article.

Peter has definitely found himself smack dab in a fish out of water tale. This is about as far removed from his life as he can get and now he has found himself more or less stranded in this community of decent, family loving pot growers.

Given this pitch, this is where current movies studios would take the story for a turn for the worse. Studios are about making money. No different than independent film makers, I guess. The difference can be found in a quote from Walt Disney though. Disney said, "We do not make movies to make money. We make money so that we can make movies." The essence for the current independent movies.

It is not hard to believe that a studio would want to snatch up a story like this and ear mark it for their favorite young star of the day. Of course, it will need just some minor re-writes to make sure that is tailor made for the talent's special needs.

Then after several revisions, perhaps a change of lead actors or two (or dozens), there will be almost no sense of the story left. It will have been massaged and milked down from independent film risks to studio film reward. The only problem is that this formula almost never rewards anyone. What the studio forgot is that to the current independent filmmaker, the risk is the reward, every thing else is gravy.

The great thing about the film makers for current independent films is that they can fight against the trend of the studios. There is no 14 levels of management. This way the movie gets made because of the passion of the story tellers for their project and their art.

Anyway, back to Peter and Bogart.

Peter finds the life style of the Humboldt County residence to be reckless and foolhardy to say the least. But, as it with any one who views some one from the outside and then takes the opportunity to step into their world and look again, Peter learns that there is more happening than the growing of pot. The core struggles of the fine folks of Humboldt County are no different than any ones. Family. Work. Love. Etc.

Our gift as the viewer is that we get to go along for the ride.

So, is this a great fish out of water tale? Nope. Did this independent film flip the genre on it's ear and surprise us with a retelling that explored new territory. Sorry, it's not there.

Did I like it? Yes, I did. It's a well made film. It's well written and well acted.

If you find yourself looking for a current independent film online (or in my case, on Netflix) this might be one to check out.