When you think indie flicks, what words come to mind? Edgy? Different? Artistic? If you really looked at the core of what independent films are about, and thus their timeless allure in a tide of mainstream formulas, it is that they are all about “expression”.
Being independant releases you from the reins of Hollywood moguls, and that’s a big deal. Because the moviemaking business is exactly that - a business. The bigwigs in tinseltown are focused on creating titles that earn at the box office, and sometimes there’s very little room for error. So once a formula works, you hold on to that like a secret recipe.
Except that recipe is not very secret. Pretty soon you see copies of the same. Remember when Christopher Nolan made Batman “dark”? Pretty soon every superhero was tormented. So what independent film companies provided, was a more authentic breath of fresh air. By focusing on their own vision and artistic values, these smaller studios attended to the filmmaking process with stronger curation. And their smaller management hierarchy meant better allowance for creative expression from the filmmakers themselves. Thus - a personal and stronger artistic product that caters to the director, not so much the audience.
Founded in 2012 - suitably in the year of what some believed to be the Mayan end of the world - A24 started their new epoch that year, with the same goals to pursue their vision of artistic expression. The American entertainment company was founded by Daniel Katz, David Fenkel, and John Hodges. Their first film produced was and began quietly with A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III. And while you may not have heard of that title, you must have certainly heard of Ex Machina (2014) and The Witch (2016). These two titles hit a rare home run with critics and audiences alike, and their selection became all the more synonymous with quality independent films that enjoyed substantial commercial success.
Part of this is because of their acumen in selecting super-normative stories in extraordinary circumstances. The other, was their innate talent in picking raw talents.
The Souvenir (RT score: 90%)
If you’re looking for some heavyweights in dramatic human plights, have a look at The Souvenir (90%). The film shows the slow spiral of a film student and an older man in a destructive relationship, as each comes to terms with their own addictions. The powerful story has garnered sustained interest, so much so that a potential sequel is in the works.
Good Time (RT score: 91%)
Good Time is a grittier piece compared to The Souvenir, where one brother tries to get bail money for his intellectually-disabled brother after a botched bank robbery. The process gets complicated as the pressures on all sides push the free brother to desperation. The “street” vibes prove to be the hard shell that wraps around an emotional story between the siblings - a wonderful contrast to watch.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco (RT score: 93%)
Again, expressing A24’s perchance in discovering new talents, San Franciscan Joe Talbot was given the chance to produce and direct his first feature in The Last Black Man in San Francisco. About the impact of a black man trying to reclaim his childhood home, which has now become an expensive home in a middle-class neighbourhood, the movie reaches deeply into topics of relationships and identity. Examining the nature of “belonging”, it felt right at home in A24’s archives, and the film won Talbot several awards including Best Directing at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
Room (RT score: 93%)
For more emotional drama, Room tells the story of a captive mother who births a child during her imprisonment, and how she creates a nurturing environment by telling the child the room is all there is in the world. It uncovered the remarkable acting of Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, while also adding to the many discoveries that A24 has opened up in the film industry, in terms of actors, approach and story thrusts.
Amy (RT score: 95%)
To showcase their grasp of the edgy and diverse, A24 even did a stunning biopic. Amy Winehouse’s passing from alcohol poisoning in 2011 shook the music world, and with the documentary film Amy, Asif Kapadia released a moving tribute to the songstress. And like her music, the film garnered many fans and critical acclaim, winning Best Documentary at the 88th Academy Awards.
A24’s treasury of films has shown its finesse in curating fine films that are as engaging to watch as they are moving. Edgy in some ways, poetic in others, there is almost always a dark beauty that comes through from their many titles. Perhaps this is why they have received successful collaborations with DirecTV Cinema and Amazon Prime in 2013, as well as new projects with Apple to produce podcasts with significant film figures and original films for the tech company.
A24 next release is The Green Knight, a retelling of one segment in the Arthurian saga directed by Ari Aster, who has introduced new horrors with Hereditary and Midsommar. His unabashed treatment and visionary treatment is clearly demonstrated once again in the trailer, again, drenching his films with gorgeous cinematography and archetypal images, this project has drawn wide interest and hype, and is set to release in May.