For those movie-goers with the feeling of having already explored the whole beaten track of the cinematographic scene: here’s a chance to dive into the far-too-little explored world of independent films.
Those we call “indie” in the most successful cases are not only simple movies, but turn out to be immersive journeys in often-neglected worlds, always narrated with a touch of originality and freshness that makes them unique. Intricated paths of emotions, characters that leave a mark and stories that challenge what’s conventional: independent cinema is a shelter for those who are looking for something “more”, something that goes beyond predictable plots and explosions of special effects.
From the directorial debuts, the film festival gems, the old cults and the small-scale European projects – basically, MUBI’s sub-categories – all these movies are not only visual spectacles, but real sensorial experiments taking us hand in hand through all of the feelings we could possibly feel, opening up our eyes and turning them into kaleidoscopes.
What I mean is that we’re talking about off-the-wall stories transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary, because independent cinema is where the magic of the seventh art merges with the often-raw authenticity of life.
Here’s our guide through the best must-watch indie movies, now available on the major streaming platforms and/or on the big screen.
“La Chimera” by Alice Rohrwacher – Big Screen
At her fourth directorial experience, Alice Rohrwacher brings on the big screen the third and last chapter of a trilogy which started in 2014 with “The Wonders” and had its sequel in 2018 with “Happy as Lazzaro”. Now, we’re in the ‘80s in the middle of the illegal trafficking of historical artifacts: a phenomenon fueled by the so-called “tomb raiders”. The plot follows the adventures of Arthur, a British archeologist played by Josh O’Connor, involved in the black market of precious historical assets covertly stolen from tombs during the excavation work. The archaeologist seems to be as precious for his unique “power”: the ability to sense the void underground, in the deepest layers of the earth, where the remains of past times are hidden. A void comparable to the very void that Arthur feels inside of himself, especially when he thinks back to his lost-lover, Beniamina.
“Festen” – Mubi
Disclaimer: this Danish 1998 movie directed by Thomas Vinterberg is part of a film movement called Dogma 95, whose most well-known advocate is Lars Von Trier. The movie, as a matter of fact, perfectly mirrors the goal of the movement: to challenge traditional film conventions and go back to a purer way of making movies. The story develops during the party for the 60th birthday of the rich Danish businessman Helge Klingenfeldt, which takes place in the luxurious family household where friends and relatives gather to celebrate. However, what seems to be a happy opportunity takes a dramatic twist when one of Helge’s sons raises the glass for a toast and reveals a dark family secret.
“The Worst Person in the World” – Mubi
This brilliant Norwegian romantic comedy, directed by Joachim Trier, was presented in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 2021. The story is divided into 12 chapters and explores the emotional education of Julie (Renate Reinsve), a young woman who is free-spirited, unpredictable, and contradictory, trying to find her place in the world while navigating the challenges of adult life and love. Julie finds herself grappling with the typical problems of her generation, torn between two men: Aksel, a successful graphic novel author, and Eivind, a stranger she meets at a party who disrupts her plans for the future.
“The Florida Project” – Apple TV+
The film portrays a piece of life of Moonie, Scooty, and Jancey, a group of children living in a disadvantaged area of Florida, close to Disneyland but far from the joyful atmosphere of the park. Despite the challenging reality they face daily, including motels, fast food, low-quality television, and degrading poverty, the three children manage to turn their lives into an adventure. While their respective mothers try to shield them from dangers and the shame they are exposed to every day, one of them, Halley, Moonie’s young mother, finds herself risking crossing the line between legality and crime, self-esteem and loss of dignity.
“Paterson” – Mubi
Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, this story follows the daily life of a bus driver named Paterson (Adam Driver) who, ironically, lives in the city of Paterson, New Jersey. The film unfolds over a week, showcasing the repetitive yet reflective life of Paterson, who wakes up every day, drives his bus, writes poems in a notebook, and spends evenings with his wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), an artist with big dreams. An ode to the value of everyday life, small joys, and human connections.
“Like Sheep Among Wolves” – Netflix
Amid double identities, religious conflicts, robberies, and blackmail, Lydia Patitucci‘s directorial debut portrays a criminal world where everyone is a potential sheep and potential wolf. It’s the story of Vera (Isabella Ragonese), a “fixer” tasked with procuring goods for a Serbian gang specializing in small robberies and other crimes. When the Serbian group allies with a group of Italian criminals, Vera comes across her brother Bruno (Andrea Arcangeli), unexpectedly involved in affairs Vera never wanted him to be a part of. As Bruno desperately seeks redemption for himself and his daughter, Vera will fight to the end to keep a huge secret.
“Under the Silver Lake” – Mubi
Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, the film tells a snippet of Sam’s (Andrew Garfield) life, an unemployed young man living in Los Angeles. The story begins when Sam meets his charming neighbor, Sarah (Riley Keough). They spend a night together, but the next day, Sarah mysteriously disappears. Sam starts investigating to uncover what happened to her, encountering a series of clues and conspiracy theories involving eccentric characters and strange situations, diving into a secret world of hidden symbols and dark connections.
“Palm Springs” – Prime Video
This sci-fi rom-com directed by Max Barbakow follows two characters, Nyles (Andy Samberg) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti), who meet at a wedding in Palm Springs. The story takes a strange turn when they discover that they are trapped in a time loop, reliving the same day with each awakening. Between boredom and frustration, the protagonists delve into the search for meaning in endless repetition, growing closer in a seemingly hopeless situation.