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Fiercely Independent: "Simon Killer," "Beasts," "Keep the Lights On" at Sundance

ReelPolitik By Anthony Kaufman | ReelPolitik January 21, 2012 at 11:38AM

Not long ago on this blog I called for the celebration of non-corporate films in non-corporate theaters. Well, at Sundance, I've been pleasantly surprised by the committed and audacious indie filmmaking on display: it's defiantly non-corporate, indeed. (And I'd like to thank the Sundance organizers for limiting the sponsorship trailers before the screenings.) The three competition films I've seen so far, "Simon Killer," "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Keep the Lights On" all show a surprising lack of interest in commercial viability. If Sundance has become synonymous with Harvey Weinstein-like bidding wars, here are three films that take much highter ground, aiming more for art than commerce.
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Not long ago on this blog I called for the celebration of non-corporate films in non-corporate theaters. Well, at Sundance, I've been pleasantly surprised by the committed and audacious indie filmmaking on display: it's defiantly non-corporate, indeed. (And I'd like to thank the Sundance organizers for limiting the sponsorship trailers before the screenings.) The three competition films I've seen so far, "Simon Killer," "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Keep the Lights On" all show a surprising lack of interest in commercial viability. If Sundance has become synonymous with Harvey Weinstein-like bidding wars, here are three films that take much highter ground, aiming more for art than commerce.

I don't believe these films are not without faults, however. I would have to say I like "Simon Killer" the best of the three--with reservations. I can't tell if it's pretentions always work, but I was game for the ride. Still, I applaud all of these films' ambitions, whether "Wild's" completely realized fantastical world, "Killer"s austere, menacing tone and masterfully ironic music cues, or "Keep the Lights On's" tenderness, warmth and humility.

I can guess what the world outside of Sundance will think of these films--as I have to conjecture in my trade reviews (click on the links above)--but personally I'd rather not care about their commercial life. Let's embrace movies that defy the norms and go against the grains of conventional filmmaking, sympathies or narrative expectations and dare to do something different. Here's hoping the rest of Sundance will do the same.

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