Internet, Film Movement Help Get the Word out about Independent Movies and World Cinema

Guest post written by Katheryn Rivas

Of course, it is nothing short of a cliche to decry the ubiquity of the Hollywood commercial behemoth that maintains one of the strongest strangleholds on American cultural imperialism in the U.S. and abroad. But for all the criticism of Hollywood's cultural hegemony, world cinema and artfully-made independent films are experiencing nothing short of a blossoming renaissance in the 21st century. The problem, as critic A.O Scott noted in a New York Times opinion editorial earlier this year, is that all these wonderful advancements in film are muddling along in relative obscurity.

Art house films don't get much attention in movie theaters as a whole in the United States. Unless you live in a city like New York, that places a stronger emphasis on films that go beyond formulaic Hollywood blockbusters, you're pretty much confined to the traditional greasy, easy popcorn fare with happy endings and obvious villains. Even if you live in a bigger city like Houston, independent films are released in special theaters with short runs and expensive ticket prices. And if you have the misfortune of living in a small "middle American" town like I did when I was younger, you can kiss your chances of having access to world and independent cinema goodbye. Although I cannot speak for the rest of the world, I suspect that reasonable access to quality films are somewhat similarly difficult to come by.

And that's where innovation comes in. It goes without saying that the Internet in many ways has become a film lover's (and maker's) dream come true. Budding film directors can find an audience, low-budget film producers can raise funds through websites like KickStarter, and filmgoers can, with a little bit of Google know-how, find and view virtually any movie in existence. There is no doubt that the Internet represents one of the most profound forces of dramatic restructuring in various fields.

At the same time, however, the Internet has its own set of problems, namely that its sheer enormity of data means that for us users, separating the wheat from the chaff, the gems from the trash, can become a burdensome and sometimes impossible task. One film and DVD distribution company, Film Movement, which has set out to distinguish itself by promoting independent and foreign films directly to the consumer, is a great example of undercutting the Hollywood monopoly. In its Mission Statement, the company notes:
"We created Film Movement because the system of releasing independent, foreign and documentary films needed to be changed. We believed that the only way to change the system was to reach out to film fans directly. At its heart, Film Movement is a grassroots direct-to-consumer company with a dedication to getting great films seen by as many people as possible, and providing intelligent, beautiful and compelling art to an ever-growing community of consumers who want more than the standard Hollywood fare."

The most interesting service that Film offers is a subscription that it enables customers to receive and keep DVDs via mail of award-winning independent and foreign films that would normally receive scant notice from traditional movie theaters. Another great thing about Film Movement is that it regularly includes short films in its feature length DVDs. American movie critic Roger Ebert praised the company, saying,
"More than a month [before its general theatrical release], however, a DVD of the [Muyurangabo] shipped to Film Movement subscribers, who pay $11 a month for their DVD of the Month Club. At around the cost of a single ticket, they got more than their money's worth, especially if they live in the countless cities where the film will never play. They got to keep the DVD. Why do customers know they can trust Film Movement? The company has been in business for seven years and distributed more than 100 films that way. And let's face it, you're unlikely seek out "Munyurangabo" on your own. Someone has to send it to you."

If Scott and Ebert are right, we are entering an age in which more diverse voices and more countries are being represented in film than ever before. But will these voices be heard? As the saying goes, only time will tell.

This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas, who writes for online universities. Questions and comments can be sent to: